Kevin Baron’s new book, Presidential Privilege and the Freedom of Information Act (Edinburgh University Press, 2019), is a fascinating analysis of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and how this act, passed in the 1960s and signed by President Lyndon Johnson, has changed the ways that both the Executive Branch and the Legislature operate and engage with each other. Baron dives into the history of information and the role that access to information plays in supporting democracy. He explains much of the debate over freedom of information from the time of the Founding to the contemporary disputes about executive privilege and Congress’s right to information. By tracing the evolution of presidential privilege through the post-World War II period, the Cold War, the Red Scare, and the Watergate scandal, Baron examines the ways in which presidents and administrations have protected information, often in the name of national security, and the ways in which the Legislative branch has pursued access to that same information. This book explores the ongoing debates about transparency and secrecy in the government, how FOIA has become a tool for Congress to get relevant information from the Executive, and how the understanding and use of presidential privilege has grown and expanded within this same context. Through deep research, Presidential Privilege and the Freedom of Information Act provides the reader with institutional understandings, policy shifts and reactions, the political dynamics of many of the post-WWII administrations and congresses, all ultimately focusing on the idea of governmental information and the health of democracy.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of Political Science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She co-edited the award-winning Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012).
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