Government Secrecy Under Bush Unprecedented

| Tue Sep. 5, 2006 1:39 PM EDT

Surprising no sentient being (but offering lots of good evidence), a new report from openthegovernment.org shows "a continued expansion of government secrecy across a broad array of agencies and actions." Reminding that information created by or for the federal government belongs to the American public, the exec summary notes, "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."

Among the report's highlights:

  • For every dollar spent declassifying old secrets, federal agencies spent $134 in 2005 creating and storing new secrets. The serious imbalance between taxpayer dollars devoted to generating secrets versus those spent to release records that are no longer sensitive continues.

  • With 2,072 secret surveillance orders approved in 2005, federal surveillance activity under the jurisdiction of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court more than doubled in five years.

  • Over 60 percent of federal advisory committee meetings in 2005 were completely closed to the public. More were partially closed.

  • Since 2001, the "state secrets" privilege has been used a reported 22 times—an average in 5.5 years (4) that is close to twice as high as the previous 24 years (2.46). In the 211 years of our Republic to 2000, fewer than 600 signing statements that took issue with the bills were issued. [See this recent Mother Jones piece by Cameron Scott on what exactly a "state secret" is, and who gets to decide.] In five years, President Bush has issued at least 132, challenging 810 provisions of laws.

Full report (PDF) here.

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