Secrecy costs rise, study says

Report on Secrecy in the Bush Administration

A study on secrecy in the Bush administration found that growth in secrecy since 2001 caused federal government and private industry officials to spend $6.5 billion on classifying government information in fiscal 2003. That amount represents a $1.8 billion, or 38 percent, increase, compared to the amount spent on classification in fiscal 2001.

The classification expenses were for maintaining secure information systems, controlling physical access to buildings, training employees and providing background checks for government and contractor employees.

The costs are cited in a recent study conducted by the House Government Reform Committee's Minority Staff Special Investigations Division at the request of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking minority member.

The 81-page report, released Sept. 14, quotes experts who said the government's policies on Freedom of Information Act requests have changed under the Bush administration.

One of those experts, Meredith Fuchs, general counsel for the National Security Archive at George Washington University, said in the report: "The Bush administration started on a bad foot when Attorney General Ashcroft introduced a policy that discouraged government agencies from releasing records under FOIA, even when they have the discretion to release. It got worse when they elevated privacy, corporate and other interests above any public interest in information."

The report concludes that administration policies have undermined public access to government information.

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