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Chapter 12 Access to Information
True/False Questions
1) The press and public have a First Amendment right of access to records and meetings of the
executive branch of government, the Supreme Court has ruled.
Answer: False
Rationale:
The Supreme Court has not explicitly ruled that the press and public have a First Amendment
right of access to records and meetings of the executive branch of government. Access to
government records and meetings is typically governed by statutes and regulations rather than
constitutional rights.
2) Before releasing public records, custodians are usually authorized to require a requester to
prove the records will be used for a "public purpose."
Answer: False
Rationale:
Custodians of public records are generally not authorized to require a requester to prove that the
records will be used for a "public purpose" before releasing them. Public records are typically
available to any member of the public upon request, subject to certain exceptions and regulations.
3) Disclosure of government computer compilations of records poses a greater threat of invading
privacy than disclosure of individual records from many locations, the Supreme Court ruled in
Department of Justice v. Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Answer: True
Rationale:
This statement is true. In Department of Justice v. Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the
Press, the Supreme Court ruled that disclosure of government computer compilations of records
can pose a greater threat to privacy than disclosure of individual records from many locations,
thus justifying withholding such compilations under certain circumstances.
4) The press and public have access to government records because of citizens' constitutional
right to receive information essential to democratic governance.
Answer: False
Rationale:

The press and public's access to government records is typically based on statutes such as
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws and state open records laws, rather than citizens'
constitutional right to receive information essential to democratic governance.
5) It's unconstitutional for the mayor to deny access to a public press conference to a reporter for
the Republican newspaper but allow access to the reporter for the Democratic newspaper.
Answer: True
Rationale:
This statement is true. Denying access to a public press conference based on the political
affiliation or viewpoint of a journalist may violate the First Amendment's protection of freedom
of the press and the right to equal protection under the law.
6) Journalists are the most frequent users of FOI laws.
Answer: False
Rationale:
This statement is false. While journalists are frequent users of Freedom of Information (FOI)
laws, they are not necessarily the most frequent users. Members of the public, researchers,
activists, and others also frequently utilize FOI laws to access government records.
7) "Reverse" FOIA suits, such as Chrysler Corporation v. Brown, establish that companies can
require federal administrators to withhold company records from the public.
Answer: False
Rationale:
This statement is false. "Reverse" FOIA suits typically involve companies or individuals seeking
to prevent the government from disclosing certain records, but they do not establish that
companies can require federal administrators to withhold records from the public.
8) Federal law protects the privacy of student educational records.
Answer: True
Rationale:
This statement is true. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law
that protects the privacy of student educational records and prohibits the disclosure of such
records without the student's consent, with certain exceptions.
9) Criminal records compiled on a student at a campus police station at a state university are
public records.
Answer: True

Rationale:
This statement is true. Criminal records compiled by a campus police station at a state university
are typically considered public records subject to disclosure under state open records laws, unless
they are specifically exempted from disclosure.
10) Open records laws usually provide citizens access to court records.
Answer: False
Rationale:
This statement is false. While some open records laws may provide access to certain court
records, such as judicial opinions and case filings, access to court records is primarily governed
by court rules and procedures rather than general open records laws.
11) Open records laws usually provide citizens access to legislative records.
Answer: False
Rationale:
This statement is false. Open records laws typically do not provide citizens with access to
legislative records. Access to legislative records is usually governed by separate rules and
procedures established by the legislative body itself.
12) Open records laws usually provide citizens access to electronic records.
Answer: True
Rationale:
This statement is true. Open records laws typically provide citizens with access to electronic
records, as they do with other types of records. Electronic records are often subject to the same
disclosure requirements as their paper counterparts.
13) Open records laws usually allow custodians to withhold records that would embarrass the
government.
Answer: False
Rationale:
This statement is false. Open records laws generally specify specific exemptions or criteria under
which records can be withheld, and embarrassment to the government is not typically a valid
reason for withholding records. Exemptions usually relate to privacy concerns, national security,
ongoing investigations, or other specific reasons outlined in the law.
14) Reporters embedded with American troops are generally permitted to report the date, time,
location, and results of completed military missions.

Answer: True
Rationale:
This statement is true. Reporters embedded with American troops are generally permitted to
report basic information about completed military missions, such as the date, time, location, and
results. However, they may be subject to certain restrictions or guidelines imposed by military
authorities.
15) More conservative presidents, who campaign for strong national security and smaller
government, tend to withhold more government records than more liberal presidents.
Answer: True
Rationale:
This statement is true. Conservative presidents, who often prioritize national security and limited
government intervention, may be more inclined to withhold government records, particularly
those related to national security or sensitive matters. However, this tendency can vary depending
on specific circumstances and policies.
16) The Patriot Act authorizes federal government agencies to order libraries to reveal records of
books requested by patrons.
Answer: True
Rationale:
This statement is true. The Patriot Act includes provisions that allow federal government agencies
to obtain records, including library records, through National Security Letters (NSLs) without
requiring a warrant or judicial oversight under certain circumstances.
17) In 2006, the federal government defeated attempts by the Associated Press and other news
agencies to gain access to names and transcripts of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.
Answer: False
Rationale:
This statement is false. In 2006, the federal government faced legal challenges and public
pressure to disclose information about detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. While there were
efforts by news agencies to gain access to such information, it cannot be definitively stated that
the federal government "defeated" these attempts.
18) A federal court has ruled the American government can protect prisoners' privacy by
redacting the identities of prisoners pictured at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Answer: False

Rationale:
This statement is false. In cases involving government actions, particularly those with significant
public interest, courts may weigh the public's right to information against privacy concerns.
However, it cannot be conclusively stated that a federal court has ruled specifically on redacting
the identities of prisoners pictured at Abu Ghraib prison.
19) Open meetings acts usually require government agencies to provide advance notice of public
meetings.
Answer: True
Rationale:
This statement is true. Open meetings acts typically require government agencies to provide
advance notice of public meetings to ensure transparency and give members of the public an
opportunity to attend and participate in the meetings.
20) While journalists have no constitutional right of access to military engagements, the federal
law requires the Department of Defense to alert the press before any military engagement.
Answer: False
Rationale:
This statement is false. While journalists may not have a constitutional right of access to military
engagements, there is no federal law specifically requiring the Department of Defense to alert the
press before any military engagement. Access to military engagements is generally governed by
military regulations and decisions made by military authorities.
21) The federal government may waive fees for record requesters who plan to disseminate the
records publicly.
Answer: True
Rationale:
This statement is true. The federal government may waive fees for record requesters, including
journalists, who intend to disseminate the records publicly, as part of efforts to promote
transparency and public access to information.
Multiple Choice Questions
1) Two cases in which the Supreme Court ruled that the press and public have no First
Amendment right of access to prisons.
A) Pell v. Procunier and Saxbe v. Washington Post

B) Richmond Newspaper v. Virginia and Department of Justice v. Reporters' Committee for
Freedom of the Press
C) Chrysler Corporation v. Brown and Department of the Air Force v. Rose
D) Sheppard v. Maxwell and Saxbe v. Washington Post
E) None of the above
Answer: A
Rationale:
Pell v. Procunier (1974) and Saxbe v. Washington Post Co. (1974) are two Supreme Court cases
where the Court ruled that there is no First Amendment right of access to prisons for the press and
public. These cases affirmed that prisons could restrict access to journalists and the public to
maintain security and order within correctional facilities.
2) For citizens to acquire government records under state and federal open records laws, they
usually must
A) provide the document number and date of publication of the requested records.
B) pay reasonable copying fees.
C) promise not to sell the records.
D) All of the above.
E) A and B.
Answer: B
Rationale:
Citizens requesting government records under open records laws typically must pay reasonable
copying fees. This ensures that the government can recover the costs associated with providing
copies of requested records, but it does not usually require promises about the use of the records.
3) Judges who review confidential records in camera
A) take pictures of the records for further study.
B) review in their chambers the legitimacy of confidential or secrecy designations on the records.
C) inspect the records to see if they are "camera ready" for printing.
D) All of the above.
E) None of the above.
Answer: B
Rationale:

Judges who review confidential records in camera typically do so in their chambers to determine
the legitimacy of confidentiality claims or secrecy designations on the records. This process
allows the judge to assess whether the records should remain confidential or be disclosed in
whole or in part.
4) "Strong" open records laws are likely to contain all the following provisions EXCEPT
A) state policy favoring openness.
B) narrow exceptions to openness.
C) brief time limits within which the government must produce records.
D) criminal penalties for officials who accidentally release confidential records.
E) All of the above.
Answer: D
Rationale:
"Strong" open records laws are likely to contain provisions such as state policies favoring
openness, narrow exceptions to openness, and brief time limits for the government to produce
records. However, they typically do not include criminal penalties for officials who accidentally
release confidential records, as this could discourage transparency and disclosure.
5) ________ authorizes reporters to be "embedded" with American troops in combat.
A) The First Amendment
B) Federal Freedom of Information Act
C) The Reporters in Combat Authorization Act
D) Defense Department policy
E) None of the above
Answer: D
Rationale:
Reporters being "embedded" with American troops in combat is authorized by Defense
Department policy. This policy outlines procedures and guidelines for journalists to accompany
military units in combat zones and report on their activities.
6) Open records laws usually provide citizens access to
A) judicial records.
B) legislative records.
C) executive branch records.
D) All of the above.

E) A and C.
Answer: C
Rationale:
Open records laws typically provide citizens with access to executive branch records. While some
laws may also provide access to judicial or legislative records, the primary focus is on ensuring
transparency and access to records held by government executive agencies.
7) The second Bush administration tightened access to federal records by all the following means
EXCEPT
A) delaying declassification of older records.
B) allowing administrators to classify records even if they have "significant doubt" that
classification is necessary.
C) ordering agencies to designate a Chief Information Officer to ensure efficient FOIA
compliance.
D) increasing the number of classified documents.
E) ordering agencies to withhold "sensitive" but unclassified national security information.
Answer: C
Rationale:
The second Bush administration tightened access to federal records by delaying declassification
of older records, allowing administrators to classify records even with "significant doubt,"
increasing the number of classified documents, and ordering agencies to withhold "sensitive" but
unclassified national security information. However, it did not order agencies to designate a Chief
Information Officer for FOIA compliance.
8) It is suggested that letters requesting public records contain all of the following clauses
EXCEPT
A) a clear description of requested records.
B) a request that custodians withholding records cite the statutory provisions authorizing the
withholding.
C) a request that the government state the projected costs in advance.
D) a demand that the records request be completed within three months.
E) a request for a fee waiver if records will be disseminated to the public.
Answer: D
Rationale:

Letters requesting public records typically include clauses such as a clear description of the
requested records, a request for citation of statutory provisions authorizing withholding, a request
for cost projections, and a request for fee waivers if records will be disseminated to the public.
However, they do not typically include demands for completion timelines, as the processing time
may vary depending on factors such as the volume and complexity of the records requested.
9) The Supreme Court has ruled that the exemptions protecting privacy in the Federal Freedom of
Information Act allow the government to withhold.
A) suicide pictures of a federal official to protect the privacy of surviving family members.
B) centralized computer rap sheets, even though the same records could be found with
considerable effort in police departments around the country.
C) pictures of coffins of American soldiers returning from the Middle East.
D) All of the above
E) A and B
Answer: E
Rationale:
The Supreme Court has ruled that exemptions protecting privacy in the Federal Freedom of
Information Act allow the government to withhold certain records, such as suicide pictures of a
federal official to protect the privacy of surviving family members and centralized computer rap
sheets, even if similar records could be found in police departments around the country.
10) "Educational records" that a state university must withhold under The Family Educational
Rights and Privacy Act do NOT include the following:
A) Charges lodged against a student at the campus police station.
B) Aggregate dataπwithout namesπabout the number and locations of violent crimes on and near
campus.
C) Directory information, including a student athlete's name, weight and hometown.
D) All of the above may be disclosed.
E) None of the above may be disclosed.
Answer: D
Rationale:
"Educational records" that a state university must withhold under The Family Educational Rights
and Privacy Act (FERPA) typically do not include directory information, such as a student
athlete's name, weight, and hometown. However, charges lodged against a student at the campus

police station and aggregate data about violent crimes on and near campus are generally
considered educational records protected by FERPA and may not be disclosed without consent.
Essay Questions
1) Public access to government records depends on several provisions of open records laws,
including the (1) stated purpose of the law, (2) how government agencies and records are defined,
(3) the time allowed for government responses to requests, (4) the fees charged and the (5)
penalties imposed if governments illegally withhold records. Briefly outline how any four of the
above five provisions should be framed in an open records statute designed to provide maximum
access to public records. Briefly describe how these four provisions in the federal Freedom of
Information Act serve or fail to serve public access to government information. [Your professor
may ask for comparison of the federal provisions with parallel provisions in your state open
records statute.]
Answer: (1) Strong open records laws contain statements of purpose or policy statements
committing the state to open government for democratic purposes. The federal Electronic
Freedom of Information Act is supposed to "foster democracy" and declares that records are open
for any public or private use. The federal open records law declares that records are
presumptively open, and that exemptions should be narrowly interpreted.
Disclosure is the main goal, the Supreme Court has said, even though exemptions provide for
withholding records the disclosure of which would invade privacy or interfere with national
security. Stated policies of openness direct record custodians and the courts to err on the side of
openness in close cases.
(2) Strong open records acts define records broadly, including virtually all records andinformation
acquired and maintained by a government agency. "Records" in strong laws are not defined as
"written memorials of final actions" or only as paper documents, but include documents,
photographs and electronic information. The software necessary to download and read electronic
records should also be a public record. The FOIA does not define records, but EFOIA defines
records as all nonexempt information maintained by an agency in any format.
(3) Strong open records laws provide a limited time for agencies to respond and fulfillrequests.
Open records laws are ineffective if custodians can postpone responses indefinitely. Under federal
law, custodians have 20 days within which to respond to a records request. Federal law provides
for expedited review and disclosure when the requester can demonstrate a compelling need, such
as an urgent need for public dissemination.

(4) Charges for searches and copying should generally be limited to the actual costs offinding and
copying records. To encourage disclosure, fees can be waived for requesters who are seeking
records to serve the democratic goals of open records acts. The federal law allows agencies to
charge the actual costs of searching and copying, the hourly cost of search personal and a
reasonable cost per page for copying. However, the federal law provides for no charge for the first
100 copies and the first two hours of search time when records are requested for public
dissemination. Indeed, all search and copy fees may be waived if a requester is seeking records
for public dissemination and not for a commercial purpose.
(5) Successful open records laws impose penalties for agencies that withholdinformation they
should disclose. The federal law allows requesters who are denied records the ability to sue in
federal court to acquire the records. Federal courts can review the records in chambers.
Requesters who are successful on appeal have the incentive of recouping attorneys' fees and other
litigation costs. In rare cases, a federal custodian might be held in contempt for refusing an order
to disclose records.
Short Answer and Key Terms
1) "Records"
Describe how the Society of Professional Journalists would evaluate the following definition of
public records in an open records act: "A public record is a written memorial of a final action."
What would be an alternative definition the society might prefer?
Answer: SPJ would find the definition much too narrow, limited only to written records and not
including reports, memos and documents during the policy-making stages leading up to the final
action. SPJ would prefer a definition that includes all recordsπpaper, electronic,
photographicπthat are acquired and maintained by an agency.
2) Embedded Journalists
Hundreds of journalists were embedded with American troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Under what legal authority did the journalists accompany American troops? The first
amendment? A federal statute? Other? Did journalists have complete freedom to publish and
broadcast whatever they chose to report?
Answer: Journalists were embedded with American troops because of Pentagon policy, not a
statute or the first amendment. The Pentagon authorized journalists to accompany troops. The
Pentagon retained the authority to hold information "at the source;" that is, the military would not

disclose sensitive information. Journalists were instructed not to disclose future operations, tactics
or specific numbers of troops.
3) Pell v. Procunier, Saxbe v. Washington Post What is the significance of Pell and Saxbe?
Answer: In Pell and Saxbe, the Supreme Court established that journalists and the public have no
first amendment right of access to federal (Saxbe) or state (Pell) prisons. The cases reinforce the
long-time holding that the press and public have no constitutional right of access to governmentcontrolled property, except to courtrooms. The government sets the terms for disclosure of
information about government operations. The government can allow journalists and the public
access to prisons if it wishes, or the government can provide reports about operations.
4) Electronic Freedom of Information Act Why is EFOIA important?
Answer: EFOIA requires the federal government to make electronic records available to the
public just as it makes paper documents available. EFOIA is important recognition of the digital
age in government. The law also encourages the government to provide records in an electronic
format and provides for government reading rooms where electronic information is made
available.
5) National Archives and Records Administration v. Favish
How did the Supreme Court expand the already broad privacy exemption in the Federal Freedom
of Information Act in its decision in National Archives and Records Administration v. Favish?
Answer: In Favish, the Court extended the privacy exemption to the relatives of a dead
government official, ruling the government could withhold photos of a government official's
suicide to protect the privacy of the official's family. The Court imposed a significant new burden
on the records requester to demonstrate that dissemination of the requested records would
advance an important public interest, the disclosure of government misconduct. It was not
sufficient, the Court said, that the requester simply ask for records or demonstrate that disclosure
might reveal "what the government is up to."

Test Bank for The Law of Public Communication
Kent R. Middleton, William E. Lee
9780205484683

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