Sunday, July 03, 2005

NYT: "Increase in the Number of Documents Classified by the Government" (Scott Shane)

A record 15.6 million documents were classified last year, nearly double the number in 2001, according to the federal Information Security Oversight Office. Meanwhile, the declassification process, which made millions of historical documents available annually in the 1990's, has slowed to a relative crawl, from a high of 204 million pages in 1997 to just 28 million pages last year.
The increasing secrecy - and its rising cost to taxpayers, estimated by the office at $7.2 billion last year - is drawing protests from a growing array of politicians and activists, including Republican members of Congress, leaders of the independent commission that studied the Sept. 11 attacks and even the top federal official who oversees classification.
[. . .]

But across the political spectrum there is concern that the hoarding of information could backfire. Thomas H. Kean, chairman of the Sept. 11 commission and a former Republican governor of New Jersey, said the failure to prevent the 2001 attacks was rooted not in leaks of sensitive information but in the barriers to sharing information between agencies and with the public.
"You'd just be amazed at the kind of information that's classified - everyday information, things we all know from the newspaper," Mr. Kean said. "We're better off with openness. The best ally we have in protecting ourselves against terrorism is an informed public."
Mr. Kean said he could not legally disclose examples he discovered of unnecessary classification. But others cite cases of what they call secrecy running amok: the Central Intelligence Agency's court fight this year to withhold its budgets from the 1950's and 60's; the Defense Intelligence Agency's deletion of the fact that the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was interested in "fencing, boxing and horseback riding"; and the Justice Department's insistence on blacking out a four-line quotation of a published Supreme Court decision.

The above is from Scott Shane's "Increase in the Number of Documents Classified by the Government" in this morning's New York Times. It's our pick (Ava and C.I.) for the story you need to know about. If you use links, please read the story. (If you have a hard copy of the paper, please read the article.) If you don't use links, just note the above.

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