The Steady March of Government Secrecy

Weitzel, Pete
September 2004
Nieman Reports;Fall2004, Vol. 58 Issue 3, p84
This article focuses on the effort of journalists in the U.S. to gain access to information. Government secrecy is getting bigger and more costly. In 2003, the federal government spent more than $6.5 billion classifying and declassifying federal records. It marked 14.2 million documents as Top Secret, Secret or Classified, putting them under lock and key for a minimum of 10 years. This revelation prompted the U.S. Intelligence Security Oversight Office to suggest the secret keeping is excessive and call for restraint. It warns the federal government is classifying so much that it is putting the very secrecy it prizes at risk. The Freedom of Information Act was passed by Congress as an amendment to the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act. This earlier act had required federal agencies to keep the public informed about rules and procedures and said members of the public should be able to participate in the rulemaking process. There has been no coordinated information gathering or strategic planning about secrecy and reporters' access to information within the journalism community or among its organizations. No one looks at upcoming federal legislation or monitors departmental policies and regulations to identify such access issues. While the individual organizations sometimes send letters of protest or submit comments urging changes in regulations, no concerted legislative strategy or proactive plan is in place to attempt to reverse the pattern of increasing closure. INSETS: Journalists Act to Combat Government Secrecy;The Associated Press Responds to Increased Government Secrecy.


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