U.S. Group Rates Obama Administration on Secrecy

9 September 2011

The U.S. advocacy coalition OpenTheGovernment.org Sept. 7 issued its 2011 Secrecy Report finding some positive trends within the U.S. government.

According to Patrice McDermott, director of OpenTheGovernment.org, “We are not as yet at the level of ‘unprecedented transparency’ the Obama Administration promises, but we are beginning to see signs that at least some of the Administration’s openness efforts are paying off.” For example, Freedom of Information Act backlogs government-wide were reduced by 10 percent in fiscal year 2010 compared to FY 2009. 

“Positive trends are also prevalent in areas where the Executive Office has control,” according to the report, noting that President Obama “is the only President for whom we have records who has not asserted Executive Privilege to deny Congressional requests for information.” The report praises as “unprecedented” the Obama administration declassification and release of information about the U.S. nuclear stockpile, the U.S. nuclear posture review, and the full size of the national intelligence budget.

“The statistics also indicate, however, that the Administration’s openness agenda has not fully been embraced by the national security bureaucracy,” concludes the organization, a consortium of 80 groups advocating for a more open and accountable government.

Two years after the effective date of the President’s Executive Order on Classified National Security Information, the report finds, “only a few agencies are taking the required Fundamental Classification Guidance Review process very seriously, with others ignoring or deferring it.”

“The amount of classified material created annually by the government stays well above that created prior to 2000, and the declassification system continues to fall farther behind,” according to the report.

The 2011 Secrecy Report analyzes FOIA delays using data from FOIA users’ perspectives. “Thanks to data from MuckRock, an online tool to help people access government data, the report analyzes the often inexplicably long delays users face in receiving information they request from the government and brings attention to other issues that regularly complicate users’ attempts to get government information.”

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