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Government Shells Out Billions to Secure Classified Information

Last year, the government spent a mind-bogglingly wasteful $7.7 billion (yes, that’s with a “B”) on securing classified information, and it made more than 14 million (with an “M”) new decisions to classify information, according to a new report by OpenTheGovernment.org, a coalition of consumer and good government groups, journalists and others focused on opening the federal government.

The amount spent on securing classified information includes the relatively miniscule amount spent on declassifying documents - $57 million, according to the report, “Secrecy Report Card 2006.” And the authors kindly translate these insanely huge amounts into real-life dollars: For every dollar spent on declassifying information, $134 was spent on classifying.

“The current administration has exercised an unprecedented level of restriction of access to information about, and suppression of discussion of, the federal government’s policies and decisions,” according to the report.

And you thought we were making all this up???


Posted 09-21-2006 10:58 AM EDT


The ‘deepening government illness’: Secrecy

The Bush administration’s fixation on secrecy is more than just ludicrous - it’s a serious threat to democracy and an insult to our nation’s history, says an Aug. 28 New York Times editorial.

The Times uses the administration’s latest secrecy fiasco - the reclassification of numbers of Cold War-era missiles and bombers, made public in the early 1970s - as the latest example of the administration’s abuse of reclassification in the name of “national security.”

“The missile blackout is the latest symptom of a deepening government illness,” the editorial said. “National security has become the excuse for efforts to crack down on whistle-blowers and journalists dealing in such vital disclosures as the illicit eavesdropping on Americans.”

Posted 08-28-2006 3:50 PM EDT


Public For Decades, Cold War Missile Documents Classified by Bush Administration

The Bush administration is still stubbornly clinging to its misguided desire to classify documents that have been public for decades, according to an Aug. 21 article in The Washington Post.

These latest documents contain information about the numbers of strategic weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal - during the Cold War (which ended more than a decade ago).

Even during the Cold War, the U.S. government gave the former Soviet Union - our enemy -   some of the information that the Bush administration is trying to keep secret.

One of the most absurd classifications is a chart showing that decades ago, the United States had 30 strategic bomber squadrons, 54 Titan intercontinental ballistic missiles and 1,000 Minuteman missiles. The military presented the chart to a congressional committee in 1971, but the numbers, which became public, were redacted from a copy of the chart researchers received this year, according to the Post.

“It would be difficult to find more dramatic examples of unjustifiable secrecy than these decisions to classify the numbers of U.S. strategic weapons,” wrote William Burr, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive. “The Pentagon is now trying to keep secret numbers of strategic weapons that have never been classified before.”

Added Thomas Blanton, the archive’s director, “It's yet another example of silly secrecy.”


Posted 08-22-2006 12:32 PM EDT


Bush Administration Secrecy Deflates Justice Investigation

The Bush administration’s commitment to secrecy has reached unprecedented levels. This time, it is blocking one of its agencies - the Justice Department - from finding out what’s happening in another one of its agencies - the National Security Agency (NSA).

President Bush prevented Justice’s internal affairs office, the Office of Professional Responsibility, from investigating the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program by refusing to grant security clearances to attorneys trying to investigate the program, according to a July 19 Washington Post story.

“The president decided that protecting the secrecy and security of the program requires that a strict limit be placed on the number of persons granted access to information about the program for non-operational reasons,” wrote Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in a letter to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Every additional security clearance that is granted for the [program] increases the risk that national security might be compromised.”

The post-9/11 surveillance program allows the NSA to intercept telephone calls and e-mails between the United States and overseas locations without court approval if one of the parties is suspected of links to terrorist groups, according to the Post. It is the focus of several lawsuits and conflict between the administration and Congress over its legality, according to the story.





Posted 07-26-2006 1:18 PM EDT


Bush Administration Aims to Thwart FOIA

St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas, will be receiving $1 million from the federal government to come up with ways to prevent the press and public from accessing “sensitive” information currently available to them via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

According to USA Today, Jeffrey Addicott, a law professor at St. Mary’s, plans to use the money to create a “model statute” for that Congress and states could use to prevent sensitive or dangerous information from falling into the wrong hands.

However, while it would be fine to prevent important data from going to terrorists, this federally funded research will provide the Bush administration with more ways to deny the public and the press information that they can rightfully access.

Paul McMasters of the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va., says it best: “Restricting information for security and efficiency and comfort level, that’s the good story. The bad story is that it can also be a great instrument of control. … To automatically believe that the less known the better is not really rational.”

Posted 07-18-2006 4:33 PM EDT

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