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Secrecy by the numbers

An open-government advocacy coalition, OpenTheGovernment.org, has released its 2007 Secrecy Report Card, which gives the Bush administration low marks on openness. The report card’s openness indicators mostly point to a sharp increase in government secrecy since 2001.

Classified documents
  • Classification activity still remains significantly higher than before 2001. In 2006, the number of original classification decisions decreased to 231,995, down from 258,633 in 2005. This is the second year in a row that the number of original classification decisions has dropped, but numbers remain significantly higher than before 2001.
  • $185 is spent creating secrets or securing old secrets for every dollar spent declassifying secrets. For every dollar the government spent declassifying documents in 2006, it spent $185 maintaining secrets already on the books, a $51 increase compared with last year. Although more pages were declassified this year, the total publicly reported amount spent on declassification decreased. The intelligence agencies, which account for a large segment of the declassification numbers, are excluded from the total reported figures.
  • 18 percent of the Defense Department’s fiscal 2007 acquisition budget is classified or “black.” “Black” programs accounted for 18 percent of DOD’s fiscal 2007 acquisition funding of $31.5 billion, which was requested in 2006.
Noncompeted federal contracts
  • More than 25 percent of all federal contracts are not awarded competitively. In 2006, 25.9 percent, or $107.5 billion, of federal contract dollars were not competed. Only one-third of contract dollars were subject to full-and-open competition. On average since 2000, more than one-quarter of all contract funding was not competed.

“State secrets” privilege
  • Reported invocations continue to rise. The “state secrets” privilege allows the sitting president to almost unilaterally withhold documents from the courts, Congress and the public. Since 2001, it has been used a reported 39 times — an average of six times per year in 6.5 years. That rate is more than double the average of 2.46 times per year in the previous 24 years.
Freedom of Information Act
  • FOIA requests continue to rise, and backlog problems persist. The total number of FOIA requests received in 2006 was 21,412,736, an increase of 1,462,189 compared with the previous year. Agency backlogs are significant. The oldest FOIA request in the federal government has been pending for more than 20 years.
Presidential signing statements
  • President Bush issued 151 signing statements. In six years, the president has issued at least 151 signing statements, challenging 1,149 provisions in laws passed by Congress. In the 211 years of the country’s history to 2000, presidents issued fewer than 600 signing statements.
Pseudo-classified information
  • 81 percent of sensitive-but-unclassified markings are made by departments and agencies without official rulemaking. About 81 percent of 107 sensitive-but-unclassified markings reviewed by the Information Sharing Environment Program Office are based on department and agency policies. The remainder of the markings derive their authority from formally promulgated regulations, about half with comment and half without.

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