Over-classification of government information may be becoming a major problem. How big a problem? Well it seems that information is classified. A congressionally mandated intelligence agency report about it, completed earlier this year, has been classified and will not be released to the public.
Now continuing in true Alice in Wonderland fashion the National Security Agency is preventing release of a report on authorized disclosures of classified intelligence to the media.
A report to Congress on authorized disclosures of classified intelligence to the media — not unauthorized disclosures — is classified and is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, the National Security Agency said.
The notion of an authorized disclosure of classified information is close to being a contradiction in terms. If something is classified, how can its disclosure be authorized (without declassification)? And if something is disclosed by an official who is authorized to do so, how can it still be classified? And yet, it seems that there is such a thing.
You read that right. Information about authorized disclosures of classified intelligence has been classified. So a disclosure of classified intelligence can be authorized, then any information about the authorized disclosure is classified. A kind of retro secret, forget where you heard this. The NSA is trying to put their toothpaste back in the tube. And if this ploy is successful the public will know even less about how the intelligence community manages authorized ‘leaks’ of intelligence information to the media.
And this stuff is costing money-according to a 2013 report from the National Archives and Records Administration the government classifies 80 million documents each year at a cost of $11 billion. This in turn boosts the number of expensive security clearances needed by federal employees and contractors to access and handle the information. A bill attempting to rein in this expensive overdose of secrecy was presented to congress this July. One goal is to limit classified information by ten percent in five years.
Maybe in the years to come this bill will pass and it will become law. The goal to limit the classification of government documents by ten percent in five years may even be met. But how will anybody know? Chances are it will be classified.