According to a new report government agencies are expanding secrecy in many areas. The report finds that “secrecy in 2004 extended to more classified activity, more federal advisory meetings, more new patents deemed ‘secret,’ more domestic surveillance, and more new state laws restricting public access to information.”
- Secrecy Report Card, 2005, (pdf, 12pp.) “Quantitative Indicators of Secrecy in the Federal Government” A Report by OpenTheGovernment.org Americans for Less Secrecy, More Democracy.
The report documents that more is being classified and kept secret and that fewer documents are being declassified. It also notes that the federal government “has greatly expanded its ability to control unclassified, public information through vague restrictions that give government officials wide latitude to declare information beyond the public’s reach.”
Perhaps most alarming, the report describes at least 50 types of designations the government now uses to restrict unclassified information deemed “sensitive but unclassified.” Many of these numerous terms are duplicative, vague, and endanger the protection of necessary secrets by allowing excessive secrecy to prevail in our open society.
An AP story about the report (Report: Gov’t Secrecy Grows, Costs More By Michael J. Sniffen, September 4, 2005, The Associated Press) quotes J. William Leonard, director of the National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office, as saying, “No one individual in government can identify all the controlled, unclassified (markings), let alone describe their rules.”
The Steering Committee of OpenTheGovernment.org includes Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, Mary Alice Baish of the American Association of Law Libraries, Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive, and David Sobel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
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