Government Secrecy Under Bush Unprecedented

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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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"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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