Fiscal cost of secrecy

Post-9/11 secrecy: pervasive and dangerous Inside the First Amendment

By Paul K. McMasters First Amendment Center ombudsman 09.11.05

If you sort the millions of pages, documents and computer disks stamped secret by federal employees last year into stacks each as high as the Washington Monument, you would have a dozen or more monuments to government stonewalling obscuring the skyline of this nation's capital.

When you take into account that as many as half of those new secrets don't deserve to be secret, as a federal official conceded in
congressional testimony not long ago, then you have monumentally darkened the landscape of our open society.

These thoughts are provoked by the release of a new report, "Secrecy Report Card 2005: Quantitative Indicators of Secrecy in the Federal Government," by OpenTheGovernment.org, a coalition of public-interest, consumer and press organizations.

This report fairly crackles with damning data. Government workers made 15.6 million classification decisions in 2004, a stunning 81% more than
the year before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. American taxpayers forked over $460 each time a government worker wielded the secrecy stamp last year, shelling out a total of $7.2 billion to keep all of those secrets secure; that compares to $3.8 billion in 1997.

The government spent $148 making new secrets for every dollar it spent unmaking old ones; for comparison, the government spent $20 on classification for every $1 spent on declassification from 1997 to 2001. [...]