Government Secrecy Under Bush Unprecedented


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.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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