National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

NTSB’S Role in the Freedom of Information

Tomorrow, many of us will gather to celebrate Independence Day, the first step our nation took to becoming a democracy. In signing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on July 4, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson said, “This legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: a democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the nation will permit.”

FOIA gives everyone rights to a federal agency’s records upon request. It is a law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Under FOIA, agencies must disclose any information that is requested unless the information is protected from public disclosure. As part of the Executive Branch, the National Transportation Safety Board is mandated by Congress to make those records available to the public as appropriate. The fact is that our compliance with FOIA is an important component of our mission, Independently Advancing Transportation Safety, and our core values of transparency, accountability, integrity, diversity, and inclusion.

I started at the NTSB in 1993 working in the Office of Research and Engineering. As I reflect on my tenure here at the NTSB and the moment I began to understand the accident investigation process, I remember the first accident in which I had an opportunity to provide assistance—the crash of US Flight 427 in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania on September 8, 1994, where the entire aircraft was destroyed and no one survived. I was part of a group that had the daunting task of sorting through wreckage, personal affects, and meeting with families of the victims and other parties involved in the investigation. Little did I know that a few years later, I would move to an office to process and train other personnel to process FOIA requests. It is because of my experience working this and other accident investigations that I have an understanding for why investigators collect so much information. Continue>>>