Editorial: Freedom of information must apply to everyone

  • Tuesday, July 9, 2019 7:46pm
  • Opinion

It’s fitting that the Freedom of Information Act was signed on the Fourth of July in 1966.

The federal law is emblematic of the most meaningful kind of patriotism, which is informed as well as vigorous and forgiving. It was based on the uniquely American concept that the people have the right to know the people’s business.

And that means all people, not just those privileged few in smoke-filled rooms.

Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, or COER, alleges in a federal lawsuit filed this week that it has had trouble getting the Navy to follow the law. The lawsuit alleges that the Navy didn’t adequately respond to, or ignored altogether, requests for information related to EA-18G Growlers and chemicals that contaminated groundwater near Navy facilities on Whidbey.

A lot of criticism has been leveled at COER over the years because of its efforts — ultimately unsuccessful — to end or decrease Growler flights in Central Whidbey because of the noise.

However you might feel about COER and its leaders, you should support their lawful right to obtain information from the federal government.

Sometimes pain, embarrassment and annoyance are a price of freedom, which is why skinheads have the right to march in parades down Main Street, fringe groups can protest gay weddings to their hearts’ content and anyone can say what they want about military airplanes or the people who complain about them.

People in power tend to be critical of sunshine laws because they make their jobs more complicated. Lawmakers in Washington state tried to argue that they alone were exempt from the Public Records Act, the state’s version of FOIA, but the state Supreme Court said they were wrong.

So did the people.

We know that an informed electorate is vital to the functioning of a democracy. Now more than ever, we must work to ensure people can inform themselves.