Report: Government secrecy down slightly in 2008
OpenTheGovernment.org's 2009 Secrecy Report Card finds some improvements in Bush's last year
Government secrecy decreased slightly in 2008 compared with previous years of the Bush administration, according to a new report from
a coalition of advocates for good and open government. Meanwhile, the
Obama administration has taken steps to increase openness, but
the eventual results remain to be seen, the report said.
The 2009 edition of the annual "Secrecy Report Card," released
today by OpenTheGovernment.org, said that there were slight decreases
in secrecy involving the executive branch of government. The group also
said since the report was first published in 2004, it has found a
significant increase in secrecy.
“Over the course of the [Bush] administration, we
learned what can happen when we don’t have all three branches of our
government carrying out their constitutional responsibilities,” the
Meanwhile, the report said the 2008 elections were viewed by
many as a referendum on that secrecy and unaccountability, and the
country chose a president who promises open, transparent and
accountable government. The authors said how well the administration
fulfills that promise will be detailed in the 2010 report; however, they said, the record is now mixed.
director of OpenTheGovernment.org and an author of the report, said the
Obama administration’s efforts to reduce secrecy have generally been
“I think it’s mostly positive,” McDermott said. “I think what’s
happened in the agencies is very positive, I think the rhetoric has
been extraordinarily positive.”
However, McDermott said the Obama administration's assertions
related to state secrets and executive privilege have raised concern.
“It’s going to be hard for any administration, any president to
give up power,” she said, after explaining what she said was former
Vice President Dick Cheney’s successful effort to restore power to the
executive branch that was lost in the Watergate era.
However, she said on most other things she thinks the Obama
administration is moving in the correct direction. According to the
report card, in fiscal 2008:
- The number of original classification decisions decreased to 203,541, a 13 percent drop from fiscal 2007.
The government spent almost $200 maintaining existing secrets already for every dollar it spent declassifying documents
Sixteen percent fewer pages were declassified than were in fiscal 2007.
The percentage of the government contract dollars that were awarded
after a full and open competition was 36 percent, down from almost 45
percent in of contract fiscal 2000.
The percentage of contracts not competed at all rose to almost 27 percent from 23 percent in fiscal 2000.
Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.