Freedom of Information Day 2016: Meaning and History of the Ironically Timely Holiday

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Not only is March 16 the birthday of the fourth president of the United States, James Madison, but it also marks National Freedom of Information Day — and an open government was held very dear to Madison's presidency. The holiday is a yearly reminder of the importance of transparency in the American government and the public's right to information. 

For Madison, who was president from 1809 to 1817, openness in the future of the American government was of the utmost importance. A constant advocate for free speech and transparency, the "Father of the Constitution" helped draft the living and breathing document, as well as helped author the U.S. Bill of Rights. 

Read more: Arizona Republicans Are Trying to Pass a Bill to Decrease Police Brutality Transparency

Source: Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images
Source: Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

This year, National Freedom of Information Day falls on the heels of a historic and unprecedented request from the FBI to Apple to unlock one of the iPhones used by a terrorist in the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, as well as several other devices. More importantly, the holiday can be used to highlight the erosion of privacy, the hidden mass surveillance used against U.S. citizens and how the government itself may no longer be as open and transparent as it was in James Madison's time. 

The holiday was created by national radio talk show host named Jim Bohannon according to National Day Calendar, and is recognized by several U.S. government websites, though it's not considered a federal holiday.

In honor of the holiday dedicated to transparency, read more about former President Madison's path to creating an open government here, as well as a plethora of online resources and information surrounding the U.S. government on the USA.Gov site.