US government secrecy continues to rise: annual report

[JURIST] US government secrecy continued to increase in 2007, according to the Secrecy Report Card 2008 [text, PDF; press release, PDF] released Tuesday by OpenTheGovernment.org [advocacy website]. The report chastized the Bush administration for its refusal "to be held accountable to the public through the oversight responsibilities of Congress," and took note of extensive quantitative findings:

The government spent $195 maintaining the secrets already on the books for every one dollar the government spent declassifying documents in 2007, a 5% increase in one year. At the same time, fewer pages were declassified than in 2006 [...]
Almost 22 million [Freedom of Information Act] requests were received in 2007, an increase of almost 2% over last year. The 25 departments and agencies that handle the bulk of the third-party information requests, however, received 63,000 fewer requests than 2006 — but processed only 2,100 more [...]
Invoked only 6 times between 1953 and 1976, the [state secrets] privilege has been used a reported 45 times — an average of 6.4 times per year in 7 years (through 2007) — more than double the average (2.46) in the previous 24 years.
Despite such criticism, the report did applaud several Congressional pushes for increased transparency on issues such as information disclosure, whistleblowers, transparency and accountability in federal spending, and state secrets. In particular, the report commended the OPEN Government Act of 2007 [S 2488 materials; JURIST report], which establishes within the National Archives and Records Administration an Office of Government Information Services to review compliance with FOIA policies, among other functions. AP has more.

Though the 2007 numbers remained classified, the report identified a 4.7% increase in reliance on national security letters (NSL) [CRS backgrounder, PDF; FBI backgrounder] in 2006. Last year's Secrecy Report Card 2007 [PDF text; JURIST report] noted 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."

 

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