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Land of the free thwarts freedom of information

Michael Crick | 11:57 UK time, Thursday, 28 April 2011

President Barack Obama's decision to publish his full birth certificate, in order to thwart critics who question whether he was born in the US, is an interesting example of differences between Britain and the United States of freedom on information (FOI).

People frequently praise America as a shining example of the best of FOI, but this case shows it's not quite all it's cracked up to be.

Such a row could never have occurred in Britain because birth certificates have long been publicly available here (for a small fee) - and that was true long before the landmark Freedom of Information Act in 2000.

In America concerns about privacy often trump FOI. While researching a book some years ago, I even discovered that in California it's possible to have a secret wedding, with no public record of it having taken place.

Crazy. But true.


  • Comment number 1.


    The Freedom To Lie, in the political arena, would be legendary - if its extent were more widely known.

    FTL has reached totality with the NO, campaign leaflet, YET IT LIES COMPLETELY OUTSIDE ANY LAW.

    Politicians frequently declare their pride in this country.

    Nuff sed.

  • Comment number 2.

    Critics? Nutjobs more like...

    I'd like to know where Donald's rug was born. China? Taiwan? Bangladesh? Cambodia?
    We should be told.

  • Comment number 3.

    what a country the USA has become, to doubt the birthplace of an elected president takes the biscuit, they loathe Obama because he is a democrat, he is black and he tried to bring the country into the twenty first century on healthcare, so the land of the free is run by big business and debt on debt into the trillions, the only good thing about America right now is....Obama

  • Comment number 4.


    Hey Stevie - give some credit to Obama's backers, who bought him his billion dollar ticket to ride. Sadly, the best thing in America might well be Obama. . . And Dave is the best Westminster could find.

    Nuff sed.

  • Comment number 5.

    you can find out more in the news about the uk abroad than you can in the uk.

  • Comment number 6.

    '5. At 20:43pm 28th Apr 2011, jauntycyclist wrote:
    you can find out more in the news about the uk abroad than you can in the uk.

    ... sources (in this case you) say:) So, as it is on the BBC, it must be true.

    It's also amazing what can be denied here, information-wise, if enough public funds are used to deploy enough lawyers to prevent what the public, ironically, have also paid for.

  • Comment number 7.

    me, I do what I like...all the rest is propaganda....(who said that?)

  • Comment number 8.


    David Frost once came out with a priceless oxymoron: he said to an Anarchist: "but he's your leader isn't he?" The reply was suitably anarchic - with expletives and epithets.

  • Comment number 9.

    Now that Obama has shown us his perhaps his critics can show us their's. I mean, let's face it, fair is fair.

  • Comment number 10.

    On the subject of the fair. Are Trump's locks a syrup? We have a right to know. Can he certify those locks, or like all the over-leveraged will he have to face a haircut?

  • Comment number 11.

    Testing conspiracy theory #27...

  • Comment number 12.

    These praising people must have the United States mixed up with Canada because the Canadian system is really very quick, with few black-outs; whereas, the American system seems to say: Don't tell the truth even if the truth will not hurt you, and whenever you can, put the untruth away for at least fifty years. Shining example? The United States? Just look at their truth-finding commissions: who killed John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, etc? Who really brought down the Twin Towers on 9/11?....And now Bin Laden's sudden assassination?
    By the way, the American row is not over about that birth certificate; there are questions remaining, the most blatant being; WHAT TOOK SO LONG? Was the document being fabricated, manipulated? Does the information contained meet all constitutional requirements for becoming an American President?
    In America concerns about conniving, secrecy, getting caught trump FOI. You say: "While researching a book some years ago, I even discovered that in California it's possible to have a secret wedding, with no public record of it having taken place."
    Well, in the United States, you can have covert operations that kill hundreds of people, overthrow democratically-elected leaders, assassinate others - with no public record taking place. It takes a long tie for a country to develop this sort of hiding-conniving mentality, and in the United States it has been going on for a long time. In America, if you think you know the truth, better think again, and don't waste your pennies on FOI.
    Not crazy, but true.


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