National Security Administration

"Its pretty basic stuff - secrecy invites corruption."
Steven Aftergood

Declassification News

"The National Declassification Center listing of 134 record collections that have undergone declassification review." - FAS

National Declassification Center

"In 1997, 20 officials in the US government were empowered to wield the top secret stamp.

In 2006 there are 1,300." - Paul McMasters

"Secrecy all too often becomes a political tool used by Executive Branch agencies to shield information which may be politically sensitive or policies which may be unpopular with the American public.

Worse yet, information may be classified to hide from public view illegal or unethical activity." - Senator Jeese Helms, Senate hearing in 1997

classifying methodology

state secrets privilege

Court Views State Secrets Too Narrowly

The Shadow of State Secrets

"In recent years, the executive branch has asserted the privilege more frequently and broadly than before, typically to seek dismissal of lawsuits at the pleadings stage.

Facing allegations of unlawful Government conduct ranging from domestic warrantless surveillance, to employment discrimination, to retaliation against whistleblowers, to torture and 'extraordinary rendition,' the Bush administration has invoked the privilege in an effort to shut down civil suits against both government officials and private parties.

Courts have largely acquiesced.

A strong public perception has emerged that sees the privilege as a tool for Executive abuse." - Senate Judiciary Committee Report 110-442

"In too many cases, claims of state secrets have succeeded in keeping important cases out of court entirely or preventing courts from considering evidence vital to the outcome of a case," said Rep. John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, at a January 29, 2008 hearing on "Reform of the State Secrets Privilege"

1948 Three employees of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), an Air Force contractor, are killed when a B-29 Superfortress crashes in Waycross, Georgia.

The widows of three crew members who die in the crash of a B-29 Superfortress bomber requested accident report on the crash.

The Air Force denies the request and files affidavits with the Supreme Court claiming that the withheld reports contain information about the aircraft's secret mission.

They describe secret electronic equipment on board that has to be protected from disclosure.

1953 The Supreme Court, citing the Air Force claim, rules in favor of the Air Force establishing the State Secrets Privilege.

Supreme Court decision in United States vs Reynolds sets as the cornerstone of national security secrecy policy, the "state secrets privilege", which relies on false government information to provide the precedential basis for asserting that there are "military matters which, in the interest of national security, should not be divulged."

Eventually the Air Force accident report are declassified.

They contain nothing whatsoever about a secret mission or sensitive electronic equipment.

The declassified Air Force accident report highlights negligence in training crew members, negligence in maintenance of the aircraft and pilot error.

There is absolutely no mention of 'classified secrets' in the accident report.
Permanent flying crews had not been established for the experimental flights of 3150th Electronics Squadron.

Civilian passengers and crew were not briefed prior to take off on emergency procedures.

The commanding officer failed to exercise adequate supervision.

The pilot inadvertently hit the feathering switch on engine #4 when hitting the feathering switch of engine #1.

Technical orders, as to maintenance, were not complied with so the aircraft was not considered to have been safe to fly.

The legal precedent that granted the US government the 'state secrets privilege' was based on false and misleading information provided by a US government agency, the Air Force.

The US government has used the state secrets privilege to cover up government negligence and mistakes that would be embarrassing to government officials and that might prove government officials liable.

"A court that automatically accepts the governments argument about 'state secrets', without ever looking at the documents in question, aligns the judiciary with the executive branch and eliminates any chance of a fair trail." - Louis Fisher

April 27, 1961 "The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.

We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it." - John F. Kennedy, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel New York City

1989 Erwin Griswold confesses in a Washington Post Op-Ed article that there was no actual national security damage from the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

1995 William Jefferson Clinton signs Executive Order 12958 which mandates that 25-year-old documents be automatically declassified unless exempted for national security or other reasons.

ignorance is a choice

September 11, 2001

"Since 911 government agencies have restricted access to unclassified information in federal agency libraries, EPA libraries, archives, Web sites, and official databases.

Once freely available, a growing number of these sources are now barred to the public as "sensitive but unclassified" or "for official use only."

No comprehensive catalog of deleted information exists.

The information blackout serves the interests of the Bush crime family, who is allergic to criticism or probing questions.

The information blackout is a disservice to the American people.

Current information policies are conditioning Americans to lower their expectations of government accountability and to doubt their political leaders.

Information is the oxygen of democracy." - Steven Aftergood

"They're doing everything to remove our history, to damage the Freedom of Information Act.

I have always called jokingly the United States of Amnesia will be worse than an amnesiac, it will have suffered a lobotomy, there will be no functioning historical memory of our history." - Gore Vidal

March 2003 George Walker Bush affirms and amends Executive Order 12958.

Analysis: Executive Order 12958 goes too far by allowing any information that involves 'scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to national security' to be classified.

It can be argued that any and all information relates to any one of these three categories - 'scientific, technological, or economic' should and can be withheld since national security includes profitability of federal government business'.

Scientific, technological, or economic matters that relate to oil, gas, energy, hedge funds, leveraged buyouts, money management, government bonds, insurance, banking, publishing, broadcasting, consumer products, chemicals, telecommunications, outsourcing, drugs, medical products and information services could be connected to national security.

October 1, 2003 The United States vs Reynolds case is refiled as Herring v. United States in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The trial court finds no fraud in the government's claim of privilege.

"Over time, the desire to protect military secrets has started to look a good deal like the impulse to cover up mistakes, avoid embarrassment and gain insulation from liability." - Barry Siegel

2004 Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root routinely stamps information, such as the number of meals served, as proprietary "secret" information.

"There's over 50% of the information that, while it may meet the criteria for classification, really should not be classified in terms of what we lose." - Information Security Oversight Office director William Leonard at an August 24, 2004 hearing of the House Government Reform Committee.

The Army Corp of Engineers has stamped "secret" information on flooding dangers in Florida.

Information on 140 Superfund sites, sites contaminated with highly toxic materials, have been stamped "secret".

July 22, 2004 The 911 Commission Report decries the level of government secrecy as a national security obstacle.

August 2004 A DoD official testifies before Congress that perhaps 50% of classified documents did not need that designation.

2005 Annual financial costs attributable to the national security classification system reached a record high of $9.2 billion according to a new report from the Information Security Oversight Office.

Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upholds Herring v. United States in new litigation, in which District Court determines "there was no fraud because the documents, read in their historical context, could have revealed secret information about equipment being tested on the plane and, on a broader reading, the claim of privilege referred to both the mission and the workings of the B-29".

"It quickly becomes apparent to any person who has experience with classified material that there is massive over classification and that the principal concern of the classifiers is not with national security, but with governmental embarrassment of one sort or another."- Erwin Griswold, who as United States solicitor general prosecuted the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case in 1971

The truth is quite ugly. If the US government allowed the State Secrets Privilege to be overturned it would be bankrupt and out of business.

midnight December 31, 2006

700 million pages of secret government documents - 400 million formerly classified pages at the National Archives, another 270 million at the FBI, 30 million from other agencies became unsecret.

Fifty archivists can process 40 million pages in a year so they will need a hundred years to process 400 million.

The backlog, inside the National Archives II facility in College Park, measures 160,000 cubic feet inside a massive classified vault with special lighting and climate controls to preserve old paper.

Row upon row of electronically operated steel shelves hold hundreds of thousands of document boxes buffered to fight destructive acidity.

Documents are to be scrutinized and processed according to classification instructions written on them by staffers of any one of several agencies.

Jeanne Schauble holds the Orwellian title of director of the Initial Processing and Declassification Division.

Archivists, overwhelmed by the number of documents that arrived at the facility, face a mumbo jumbo of competing declassification instructions from various agencies with arcane rules and layers of document review.

February 9, 2009 Douglas N. Letter, a justice department lawyer for the Obama administration, surprises a panel of federal appeals judges with an argument for preserving state secrets to continue to shield those involved with rendition and torture under the George W. Bush administration.

waterboard bush

unique library index

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