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Report Analyzes Government Secrecy

Top Secret Stamp

It’s been a year filled with startling revelations about the high number of secret programs operating within our government. In their 9th annual Secrecy Report, aims to detail those in-the-dark operations.

According to a press release, the findings were less than encouraging.

The results of this year’s assessment show that while there have been some reductions in secrecy during the Obama Administration’s tenure, the change is slow. And, particularly in areas related to national security, the extent of secrecy remains unchanged, or continues to grow. Overall, the rate of change is well below what it would take to make the government open and accountable.

Some of the topics the report discusses are the use of secret laws, the President’s use of relatively non-transparent signing statements, and the declassification process.

It also examines the effectiveness of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process. According to the report, agencies decreased the FOIA backlog by 14 percent in the last year and decreased the amount spent on each request by $44.65. It’s important to note that much of this progress will likely be undone by the current government shutdown, during which no FOIA requests are being processed.

To conclude, a special section contains “5 Big Ideas to Kick-Start Openness”-”Start with openness,” “Release to one is a release to all,” “Create a self-canceling classification process,” “Reduce overclassification,” and “Provide public access to secret interpretations of law.”

In a press release, Patrice McDemott, the Executive Director of, commented on the five ideas.

If the Administration wants to meet President Obama’s goal of unprecedented levels of openness in government, it will require bold steps and persistent follow-through.

Some of the steps we outline might be harder than others, but each is a necessary, if insufficient, step towards creating a government that is transparent about its actions and accountable to the public.

Photo by Flickr user AJ Cann


By: Avery Kleinman
Beth Daley Impact Fellow, POGO

Avery Kleinman At the time of publication Avery Kleinman was the Beth Daley Impact Fellow for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Open Government

Authors: Avery Kleinman

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