Government of the people, by the people, and as far away from the people as it can get

Thursday, November 16, 2006 at 01:18 PM

Okay, you're disgusted that federal secrecy seems to be growing faster than the mold on your civil rights.  But how, pray tell, to describe the problem, to quantify the phenomenon so that others may see the problem?

Try the "Secrecy Report Card 2006," from a coalition of watchdog groups.  According to the Federal Times, the report's highlights from the year 2005 include:

  • Annual spending on secrecy reached an estimated $7.7 billion, the highest amount ever, according to the National Archives and Records Administration.

  • Agencies spent 135 times as much to classify documents as they did to declassify old ones.

  • More than 60 percent of meetings of federal advisory committees, where government gets scientific and technical advice, were closed to the public.

  • 106 new patents were kept secret, making 4,915 total.

  • The government issued 9,254 National Security Letters, which can be used to obtain information about individuals without telling them or getting a warrant.

  • Classified programs accounted for $54 billion, or about 17 percent, of the Defense Department's budget, which excludes war spending. The total spent on the programs has almost doubled since 1995.

  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved all 2,072 requests for secret surveillance orders made by intelligence agencies.

  • The National Archives and Records Administration discovered that 10 unrelated federal classification efforts had resulted in 25,315 public records being removed from its shelves. More than one-third of the records were withdrawn for reasons that did not meet classification standards.

I guess from this perspective you could claim that warrantless surveillance by the NSA is a God-send, since it holds down the costs of the program (no lawyering, etc. to get that troublesome warrant, you see).