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Report shows continued expansion of US government secrecy

[JURIST] A report [text] released Saturday by OpenTheGovernment.org [official website], a private monitoring group, reveals what it described as further expansion of US government secrecy [press release] notwithstanding an increase in the number of classified government documents unsealed in 2005. In comparison to 2004, the public's use of the Freedom of Information Act [text] in 2005 increased and the number of declassified pages was 29.5 million, up 1.1 million since 2004, but still quite low when compared to the 75 million documents that were unsealed in 2000, the last year of the Clinton administration. Meanwhile, federal officials created new categories of sensitive information and claimed more legal privileges in court, allowing them to keep 14.2 million documents "top secret," "secret" or "confidential," at a cost of $7.7 billion. Director of OpenTheGovernmnet.org Patrice McDermott remarked that "every administration wants to control information about its policies and practices, but the current administration has restricted access to information about our government and its policies at unprecedented levels."

The politically sensitive report notes that in 2005 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [FJC backgrounder] approved all 2,072 secret surveillance requests by the Bush administration, rejecting none. It also finds that the frequency of the administration's invocation of the "state secrets" privilege - 22 times in the past 4 years - is almost twice as high as the average of claims made to the privilege in the past 24 years. AP has more.

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