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US federal government secrecy on the rise: report

[JURIST] US government secrecy increased in 2006, according to the Secrecy Report Card 2007 [PDF text, PDF; press release] released over the weekend by OpenTheGovernment.org [advocacy website]. The report cited an increased reliance on national security letters (NSL) [CRS backgrounder, PDF; FBI backgrounder] and more frequent assertions of the state secrets privilege. The fourth-annual report also examined other indicators of secrecy in the federal government such as the numbers of presidential signing statements [1993 DOJ backgrounder; JURIST news archive], non-competed federal contracts, whistleblowers, and assertions of executive privilege. The report found that across the federal government there was "a continued expansion of government secrecy across a broad array of agencies and actions and some, limited, movement toward more openness and accountability."

Specifically, the report showed an increase of 1,462,189 more Freedom of Information Act [text] requests in 2006, as compared to the previous year, while agency backlogs in responding to such requests continued to rise. In addition, the report indicated that the Bush administration has dramatically increased use of the state secrets privilege - invoking it a reported 39 times since 2001, an average of six times per year in 6.5 years - more than double the average (2.46) in the previous 24 years combined.

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