"Its pretty basic stuff - secrecy invites
- Steven Aftergood
"The National Declassification Center
listing of 134 record collections that have undergone
declassification review." - FAS
"In 1997, 20 officials in the US government were
empowered to wield the top secret stamp.
In 2006 there are 1,300." -
"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
"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
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 reports on the
The Air Force denies the request and files affidavits with the
Supreme Court claiming that the withheld reports contain information about the
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 and
establishes the State Secrets Privilege.
decision in United
States vs Reynolds sets as the cornerstone of national security secrecy
policy, the "state secrets privilege", which relied 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 reports were declassified and found to contain nothing whatsoever
about a secret mission or sensitive
The declassified Air Force accident reports do
highlight 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 reports.
Permanent flying crews
had not been established for the experimental flights of 3150th Electronics
Civilian passengers and crew were not briefed prior to take
off on emergency procedures.
The commanding officer failed to exercise
The pilot inadvertently hit the feathering switch
on engine #4 when hitting the feathering switch of engine #1.
orders, as to maintenance, were not complied with so the aircraft was not
considered to have been safe to fly.
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.
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 were liable for their acts.
"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
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
Griswold confesses in a Washington Post Op-Ed article that there was no actual
national security damage from the publication of the Pentagon
Jefferson Clinton signs Executive Order 12958 which
mandates that 25-year-old documents be automatically declassified unless
exempted for national security or other reasons.
September 11, 2001
"Since 9-11 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.
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
"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
George Walker Bush affirms and amends Executive Order 12958.
Executive Order 12,958 goes too far by allowing any information that involves
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
Scientific, technological, or
economic matters that relate to
medical products and
could each be connected to national security.
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 stamped information, such as the number of meals served, as
proprietary "secret" information
"There's over 50 percent 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
The Army Corp of Engineers has stamped "secret"
information on flooding dangers in
Information on 140 Superfund sites, sites contaminated with
highly toxic materials, has been
July 22, 2004 The 911
Commission Report decries the level of government secrecy as a national
August 2004 A DoD official
testifies before Congress that perhaps 50 percent 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.
Appeals for the Third Circuit upholds the decision in the new litigation, in
which District Court determined "there was no fraud because the documents,
read in their historical
context, could have revealed secret information about the 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".
becomes apparent to any person who has considerable 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
Fifty archivists can process 40 million pages in a year so
they will need a hundred years to process 400 million.
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
Documents are to be scrutinized and processed
according to the classification instructions written on them by staffers in any
one of several agencies.
Jeanne Schauble holds the Orwellian title of
director of the Initial Processing and Declassification
Archivists, overwhelmed by the number of documents, that have
arrived at the facility, face the strange 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.
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