"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
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
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.
Supreme Court 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
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.
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 were liable for their
"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.
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.
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,
and gain insulation from liability." - Barry Siegel
subsidiary Kellogg, Brown
and Root routinely stamped information, such as the number of meals served,
as proprietary "secret"
"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
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% of classified documents did not need
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 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.
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
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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