Classification is broken, report says…

The federal government is classifying information at a rapidly increasing pace

More black holes than a cheesy sci-fi film

More black holes than a cheesy sci-fi film (Photo credit: gary_foulger)

, and every time the CIA, FBI or National Security Agency stamps a document “Top Secret,” it’s risking the public’s right to know, says a report released Thursday by the Public Interest Declassification Board.

The current classification system, the board concluded, is “fraught with problems. In its mission to support national security, it keeps too many secrets, and keeps them too long; it is overly complex; it obstructs desirable information sharing inside of government and with the public.”

The board, an official body of academics, ex-spys and transparency experts appointed by the president and Congress, does not have the power to force changes. Only the president, it says, has the power to force agencies to end an overly cautious culture of secrecy. But non-governmental organizations have questioned the administration’s commitment to transparency, citing its prosecution of people who have leaked confidential documents to the press.

The National Archives have a declassification backlog of 400 million pages just for documents older than 25 years. And as computers suck up more data, the problem is getting worse. At one unnamed intelligence agency, the board found, the equivalent of 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text is classified every 18 months.

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