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2001 National Freedom of Information Day conference

Theme of March 16 gathering is 'Access, Privacy and Security: A Troubled Tangle'

02.26.01

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  • Coverage: Speakers make case for Web access to public records
  • Podesta details Clinton administration's open-government achievements
  • Anti-leak laws aren't the answer, panel says
  • Resources for the 2001 conference
  • ARLINGTON, Va. — The convergence of two anniversary observances adds special meaning to the annual National Freedom of Information Day conference to be held March 16 at The Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va.

    This year is the 35th anniversary of the federal Freedom of Information Act and March 16 is the 250th birthday observance for James Madison, regarded as the Father of the Constitution as well as the foremost advocate for openness in government. Madison's birth date has been observed for many years as National Freedom of Information Day.

    The conference will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, March 16, at The Freedom Forum World Center, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va. (See agenda.)

    "Americans and their leaders today are struggling to reconcile the need to protect personal privacy and national security with the democratic imperative of maximum access to government information," said Freedom Forum First Amendment Ombudsman Paul McMasters. "We hope to explore these issues in depth and advance the debate in a positive way during the National FOI Day Conference.

    "This year's conference also will provide an opportunity for the public and the press, as well as the FOI and right-to-know communities, to celebrate the 35th annniversary of the Freedom of Information Act and the 250th birthday of James Madison, who eloquently and forcefully articulated the principle of openness as fundamental to freedom."

    Here are some of the more important features of this year's National FOI Day conference, titled "Access, Privacy and Security: A Troubled Tangle":

    • Former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta heads up a list of 27 distinguished speakers and presenters.
    • Panel discussions of two important access issues:

      1. Efforts to pass a law punishing the leaking of secret information to the public and press.
      2. Controversy over making court records widely available over the Internet.
    • Reports on access developments and trends in the Clinton administration, Congress, the courts, and government secrecy, as well as in international, state and local laws and policies.
    • A special analysis of more than 20 audits of sunshine laws compliance.
    • Briefings on four important freedom-of-information initiatives at the federal and state levels.
    • A strategy statement on access to government information, drafted by a committee representing major FOI-related organizations, to be presented as a blueprint for improving policies and laws and building support for the principle of access.
    • In special ceremonies at lunch, the American Library Association will present its annual James Madison Award for FOI work and 10 more people will be inducted into the Freedom of Information Hall of Fame for their service to access principles.

    Material presented at this year's conference will be posted on this Web site and published in a "Sunshine & Secrecy" report to be issued this summer.

    The annual conference is sponsored by The Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center in cooperation with the American Library Association. The conference also is endorsed by a coalition of more than 30 FOI-related organizations.

    There is no fee for attending the conference, which includes continental breakfast and lunch, but registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. Those wanting to attend must call Virginia Wright at 703/284-3512 or e-mail her at vwright@freedomforum.org.

    For more information, contact Paul McMasters, First Amendment Ombudsman, The Freedom Forum, 703/284-3511 or pmcmasters@freedomforum.org.

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