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Document Type

Comments

Abstract

What do teenagers, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Coca-Cola Company have in common? Secrets. Social movements for less government secrecy have led to the implementation of mechanisms that ensure public distribution of information. One of these mechanisms is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). President Lyndon B. Johnson, when signing the FOIA, stated that “freedom of information is so vital that only the national security, not the desire of public officials or private collectors, should determine when it must be restricted.” It is therefore unsurprising that the FOIA provides a judicial remedy for when information has been improperly withheld. There have been, however, contradictory rulings as to the scope of that judicial relief. On August 29, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, held that the judicial remedy that the FOIA provides to complainants empowers district courts to order federal agencies to publish records subject to the reading room provision of the FOIA online. In doing so, the court expanded the anti-secrecy efforts of the FOIA as intended. This Comment argues that, unlike the contrary decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Ninth Circuit’s holding is aligned with the over-arching goals of the FOIA.

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