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Costs rise, but at 25 agencies expenditures fell
In 2007, the total cost of FOIA implementation across the government increased 16%. But a 2008 study revealed that,
in 2007, FOIA spending at 25 key agencies fell by $7 million to $233.8 million and the agencies put 209 fewer people to
work processing FOIA requests.
128 New Patents Kept Secret, 5,002 “Secrecy Orders” in Effect
In 2007, the federal government closed the lid on 128 patents. Overall, that brings the total number of inventions kept
under “secrecy orders” to 5,002.
“STATE SECRETS” PRIVILEGE Reported Invocations Continue to Rise.
Invoked only 6 times between 1953 and 1976, the privilege has been used a reported 45 times — an average of 6.4 times per year in 7 years (through 2007) — more than double the average (2.46) in the previous 24 years.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court does not reveal much about its activities while approving orders to conduct electronic
surveillance and physical search of U.S. persons who are suspected of being agents of a foreign power. In 2007, the number of
applications from the federal government to collect information grew almost 9% from last year’s total — to 2,371 applications. The
number of FISA applications presented has more than doubled since 2000. Three of the 2007 applications were withdrawn prior
to the FISC and one application was denied in part; two held over from 2006 were approved in 2007. The FISC made “substantive
modifications” to the government’s proposed orders in 86 of its applications. The Justice Department does not identify the activities
investigated nor provide basic information about how the subpoenas are used.
OpenTheGovernment.org’s fifth annual report, Secrecy Report Card 2008, shows both a continued expansion of government
secrecy across a broad array of agencies and actions and some movement toward more openness and accountability,
particularly in the Congress.
The public has a right to know what its government is doing to preserve health, safety, and the public weal. Information
created by or for the federal government belongs to the American public and should be open (except in strictly limited and
specified contexts). The administration of President George W. Bush has over its seven and one half years to date exercised
unprecedented levels not only of restriction of access to information about federal government’s policies and decisions, but
also of suppression of discussion of those policies and their underpinnings and sources. It continues to refuse to be held
accountable to the public through the oversight responsibilities of Congress. We have been made less secure as a result and
the open society on which we pride ourselves has been undermined and will take hard work to repair.
An open and accountable government is the foundation of our democratic republic. Transparency serves as a means
to hold governments accountable — helping to root out abuse of power, bad decisions, illegal actions, or embarrassing
facts that may put lives at risk. A March 2008 Sunshine Week poll found that three-quarters of American adults view
the federal government as secretive, and nearly nine in 10 say it’s important to know presidential and congressional
candidates’ positions on open government when deciding for whom to vote. The survey showed a significant increase over
the past three years in the percentage of Americans who believe the federal government is very or somewhat secretive,
from 62 percent of those surveyed in 2006 to 74 percent in 2008. This is terrible news for our country and our system
of government. In exit polls during the 2006 Congressional elections, similarly, more than 40% of voters indicated that
corruption and scandals in government were very important in their voting decisions. Sunshine on the workings of
government is the first step toward winning back public trust.
percentage of Americans who believe the federal government is very or somewhat secretive, from 62 percent of those surveyed in 2006 to 74 percent in 2008
Scientific and Technical Advice Increasingly Closed to Public
In 2007, governmentwide 64% of FACA committee hearings were closed to the public. Excluding groups advising three
agencies that historically have accounted for the majority of closed meetings,15% of the remainder were closed — a 24%
increase over the number closed in 2006. These numbers do not reflect closed meetings of subcommittees and taskforces.
than 25% of all awards are not competed at all
In 2007, 26.2 percent ($114.2 billion) of federal contracts’ dollars were completely uncompeted; only one-third of contracts
dollars were subject to full and open competition. On average since 2000, more than 25% of all contract funding was not
competed and fully and openly competed contracts have dropped by almost 25%
• Classification activity still remains significantly higher than before 2001.
In 2006, the number of original classification decisions increased slightly to 233,639, after dropping two years in a row. The
numbers remain significantly higher than before 2001.
• $195 Spent Creating and Securing Old Secrets for Every Tax Dollar Spent Declassifying
The government spent $195 maintaining the secrets already on the books for every one dollar the government spent
declassifying documents in 2007, a 5% increase in one year. At the same time, fewer pages were declassified than in 2006.
• 18% OF DOD FY 2008 Acquisition Budget Is Classified or “Black”
“Black” programs accounted for about $31.9 billion, or 18 percent of the (FY) 2008 Department of Defense (DOD)
acquisition funding requested in 2007. Classified acquisition funding has more than doubled in real terms since FY 1995.