This week, OpenTheGovernment.org released its fifth annual report on indicators of government secrecy. The 2008 Secrecy Report Card shows both a continued expansion of government secrecy across a broad array of agencies and actions and some movement toward more openness and accountability, particularly in the Congress.
OpenTheGovernment.org issued the first edition of the Secrecy Report Card to call attention to the expansion of secrecy in the federal government. This year’s expanded report seeks to provide a more complete picture of secrecy and openness in the federal government, expanding this year to cover Mandatory Declassification Review numbers and progress under the Automatic Declassification Review process.
Among the highlights, the report found:
- 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, even though the government spent the same amount of money on declassification. The intelligence agencies, which account for a large segment of the declassification numbers, are excluded from the total reported figures.
- In 2007, the number of original classification decisions increased slightly to 233,639, after dropping two years in a row. The numbers remain significantly higher than before 2001. The number of derivative classifications also increased from 20,324,450 in 2006 to 22,868,618 in 2007 — an increase of almost 13%.
- The total cost of FOIA implementation in 2007 across the government increased 16%. But a 2008 study by the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government (CJOG) revealed that, in 2007, FOIA spending at the 25 agencies it examined fell by $7 million to $233.8 million and the agencies put 209 fewer people to work processing FOIA requests.