How to be a patriot on the Fourth

American Flag by Peter Griffin

American Flag by Peter Griffin

This Fourth of July, we at ICOG urge you to celebrate with all-American traditions such as charring meat over the grill, raining fireworks on your neighbor’s roof, joining in protests and filing FOIA requests. We’re serious about those last two items, and we have some specific ideas to get you started.

First, remember the Fourth was born out of protest and ultimately led to a new constitution and Bill of Rights. One of those rights, the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure, is increasingly being put to the test in this age of massive government surveillance (see an excellent primer on the revelations of National Security Agency surveillance here). ICOG stands with individuals and organizations that are challenging the federal government’s claims to sweeping authority in this area, as well as the broad veil of secrecy surrounding the efforts. Advocates of the movement to Restore the Fourth will march from Military Park to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument beginning at 1 p.m. on July 4. If you can’t join the march, you can learn more about the movement and sign on to spread the word at www.restorethefourth.net.

Second, though most people remember the original anniversary we celebrate this time of the year is the Declaration of Independence, did you know that July 4 is also the anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act? That’s right. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Act on July 4, 1966, so this year we celebrate the 47th anniversary of our statutory right to get records from the federal government. That was a major milestone for public access, and ICOG joins with other access advocates in urging citizens to exercise the all-important right to obtain public documents. It’s easy to file a FOIA request. What should you ask for? Our friends at Open the Government have some good ideas if you don’t have any of your own. Check out their resource page, file your request today, and post your “I FOIA’d” badge. And don’t forget to let us know what you get!

From all of us at ICOG, Happy Fourth of July.