from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 72
July 16, 2007

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For the second year in a row, the number of new national security secrets created by government officials declined, according to a new report to the President from the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO).

At the same time, however, the number of new classified records incorporating previously classified information increased sharply, ISOO found.

While "original classifications" declined by 10%, "derivative classifications" increased by 45%. As a result, total classification activity grew from 14.2 million classification actions in 2005 to 20.5 million classification actions in 2006.

Meanwhile, the financial costs of protecting classified information in government and industry grew to a new record high of $9.5 billion in 2006.

Significantly, ISOO reviewers reported a "high error rate" in the documents that they examined for compliance with classification procedures.

The finding underscores the need for additional oversight.

"ISOO found a high percentage of documents with an unknown basis for classification, as these documents failed to indicate the authority or basis for classification, thereby calling into question the propriety of their classification."

More positively, ISOO found that declassification activity increased to meet the December 31, 2006 deadline for automatic declassification of most 25 year old classified documents.

"While a detailed analysis of the final results is still underway, it appears that all Executive branch agencies have succeeded in meeting their obligations toward automatic declassification," ISOO director J. William Leonard wrote to President Bush in his transmittal letter.

More than 1.33 billion pages of classified historical records have been declassified since 1995 (including 37 million pages in 2006, a one year increase of 27 percent). Of these, only around 460 million pages are publicly available at the National Archives. Another 400 million pages await processing at the Archives prior to public release, while the remainder are still in agency custody.

"A task that at times appeared to be unattainable has been brought to a satisfactory culmination," Mr. Leonard wrote.

But the task is not over, he noted, since each year millions more additional records become 25 years old and subject to automatic declassification.

A copy of the 2006 Information Security Oversight Office Report to the President is here:

Once again, the Office of the Vice President declined to cooperate with ISOO last year and to provide data on its classification and declassification activity. It last reported to ISOO in 2002.


An exceptionally interesting July 12 House Intelligence Subcommittee hearing on national security classification policy, featuring William Leonard of the Information Security Oversight Office, Meredith Fuchs of the National Security Archive, and myself, was recorded by C-SPAN and may be viewed online, at least temporarily, here:

In accordance with new legislative transparency provisions, the Senate Intelligence Committee identified three funding "earmarks" in the pending intelligence authorization bill for FY 2008. See these July 9 remarks of Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller:

The record of a January 2007 hearing on presidential signing statements that was held by the House Judiciary Committee has now been published:

A 1942 U.S. military intelligence document describes "German tactical doctrine," based on the accounts of four American officers who were allowed to study at the German General Staff School from 1935-1939. "From their illuminating reports it is possible to learn the trend of German methods and teachings up to Hitler's attack on Poland," according to the 1942 Foreword. Originally published in 1989, the document was recently made available online.


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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