Expensive Government Secrecy
The U.S. Federal Government continues to restrict public access to information at unprecedented levels, using assertions of executive power and national security “state secrets” privilege successfully in court.
In 2005 alone, the government spent $7.7 billion to prevent information from going public by marking 14.2 million documents either top secret, secret or confidential.
A new report by a coalition of watchdog groups details how the government is keeping information from the people and how taxpayers are picking up the hefty tab. For instance, federal agencies spent $134 creating and storing new secrets for each $1 spent to declassify old secrets. That’s down from the record $148 in 2004, but up from the $17-to-$1 ratio spent in 2000.
Additionally, the George W. Bush administration has used national security to keep information secret more times – 22 since 2001 – than at the height of the Cold War, between 1953 and 1976. This denies Americans information that they should be able to access.
The top secretive agencies include the Pentagon, which spent 17% of its $315.5 billion budget to classify information and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees requests for U.S. surveillance and approved all 2,072 secret surveillance orders.
One of the reports’ authors said it’s natural for every administration to control information about its policies and practices, but said this administration has done it unprecedented levels and asked how the public or even Congress can make informed decisions under such circumstances.