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Abstract

In recent years the Society of American Archivists and other organizations committed to open records have called on Congress and the president to work together to strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). For archivists and other transparency advocates, understanding the history of the FOIA may shed light on recent events and why efforts to maintain open records and strengthen the law continue regardless of which political party occupies the White House. This article explores the early history of the Freedom of Information Act from the establishment of the Special Subcommittee on Government Information in 1955 to the amendments added in the wake of the Watergate scandal in 1974. In view of the fact that 2016 marks the FOIA’s fiftieth anniversary, this study will hopefully be a timely reminder of the law’s significance and the important role that archivists play in advocating for open records at all levels of government.

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