Excerpt: Right now, as you read this, a CIA station chief, an ambassador or a defense official is deciding to classify a document. With a single stroke, he or she will mark it Confidential, Secret, Top Secret or another restrictive phrase, and it will vanish from public view until it is declassified—or leaked.
There are more than 4,000 people scattered across the federal government with the authority to classify documents, from those in the Pentagon and CIA to the Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency. In 2004 alone, 15.6 million documents were classified—about 125 documents a minute—costing more than $7 billion of your tax dollars.
At the same time, information itself, both classified and unclassified, is increasing exponentially, notes Bill Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office at the National Archives. This has been accompanied by a proliferation of entirely new forms of withholding, with titles like “law enforcement sensitive” or “homeland security sensitive,” which restrict documents without formally classifying them. No one even knows how much classified material the federal government has, notes Rep. Christopher Shays (R., Conn.): “Some estimate that 10% of current secrets should never have been classified.” Others, he adds, put it as high as 90%. [via Secrecy News]