Administration Scores a ‘Shows Improvement’ on Secrecy Report Card
by Sean Moulton, 9/7/2010
Today, OpenTheGovernment.org released their annual Secrecy Report card, which tracks key indicators and statistics for executive branch secrecy. The Obama administration came into office placing a high priority on transparency and collaboration, promising to be the most open and accountable administration in history. The report, which covers the first 9 months of the Obama presidency, indicates the administration made noticeable progress in several areas.
- The backlog of requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dropped 40 percent.
- The number of officials with original classification authority dropped sharply for the first time in a decade.
- The number of records receiving original classification dropped 10 percent from last year.
According to Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, “Encouraging trends are evident in these early months of the Obama Administration, in both FOIA and in general secrecy. In general, after hitting high water marks during the Bush Administration, statistics indicate the creation of new national security secrets is slowly ebbing.”
Unfortunately other statistics indicate that the administration still has areas to work on.
- The percent of Federal Advisory Committee meetings that were closed to the public rose to a new high – 73 percent.
- The rate of declassification slowed 8 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, the backlog of records awaiting review for possible declassification continued to rise.
- The administration invoked the state secrets privilege four times, all continuations of cases began under the Bush administration.
OMB Watch hopes the administration will be able to turn the corner on these lagging issues, such as declassification and open meetings, while continuing to improve areas like FOIA and original classification. Next year’s Secrecy Report Card should be even more telling about the administration’s ability to deliver on its promise of unprecedented openness.