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US govt classifies record number of documents!

Increase in the Number of Documents Classified by the Government NY Times, July 3, 2005 by Scott Shane.

According to the Information Security Oversight Office (part of NARA), a record number of government documents were classified last year. Add to this the 2001 Ashcroft FOIA memorandum that gave federal agencies more leeway in administering FOIA and limiting access to information, and you get a recipe for a *drastic reduction* in the amount of government information accessible by citizens and researchers.

For some background, the National Security Archive has an interesting report entitled, “THE ASHCROFT MEMO: “Drastic” Change or “More Thunder Than Lightning”?” There’s also an interesting article on government secrecy entitled, “The Age of Missing Information: The Bush administration’s campaign against openness.” By Steven Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy.

“A record 15.6 million documents were classified last year, nearly double the number in 2001, according to the federal Information Security Oversight Office. Meanwhile, the declassification process, which made millions of historical documents available annually in the 1990’s, has slowed to a relative crawl, from a high of 204 million pages in 1997 to just 28 million pages last year.

The increasing secrecy – and its rising cost to taxpayers, estimated by the office at $7.2 billion last year – is drawing protests from a growing array of politicians and activists, including Republican members of Congress, leaders of the independent commission that studied the Sept. 11 attacks and even the top federal official who oversees classification.”

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