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Report card on government privacy and secrecy

CNet News.com reports that surveillance of Americans by the federal government has steadily increased; that spending on securing classified information has increased to $7.7 billion; and that new justifications for not releasing unclassified government documents to the public are proliferating. None of this is good news for advocates of open government and the freedom to read.

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1 Comment

  1. The 7.7 Billion dollar figure for locking information away is even more depressing when you compare it to some other numbers.

    This year (or last) the budget for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) was around 32 million dollars. Let’s call that the “public access budget.” Dividing that into the “secrecy budget” gives public access a ratio of 0.004 or about 0.4%.

    Old document hands know that the government does spend a smidge more on providing public access to information than the FDLP, but I’m willing to bet that even if you threw in every last penny devoted to making government information freely accessible to the public, you still couldn’t come up with more than two percent of the “secrecy budget” for public access.

    And those are figures worthy of a monarchy or dictatorship, not a free country. In the spirit of fairness, I must point out that this was probably the case long before the Bush Adminstration. Perhaps all the back to the birth of the National Security State back in the late 1940s.

    America deserves better.

    “And besides all that, what we need is a decentralized, distributed system of depositing electronic files to local libraries willing to host them.” — Daniel Cornwall, tipping his hat to Cato the Elder for the original quote.

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