Secrecy Continued to Expand in 1994
The expansion of the government secrecy system continued in 1994 but at a substantially slower rate than in past years, according to the latest annual report of the Information Security Oversight Office(ISOO). The total number of classification "actions" dropped by 26% to 4.7 million, the lowest ever reported by ISOO it its 15 annual reports."(Each "action" represents the classification of a unit of information, whether it is a single word or a thousand page report.) At the same time, ISOO says, "1994 was a banner year for declassification" with some 11.2 million pages declassified, an increase of 70% from the previous year. (The November 1994 bulk declassification of 44 million pages is not included in the total for fiscal year 1994 which ended September 30.) Despite the significant changes, however, the secrecy system continued to expand. This fact is obscured in the report, which measures classification in "actions" and declassification in "pages". But ISOO Director Steven Garfinkel confirmed that classification continued to outpace declassification. The exploding inventory of secret government documents was bemoaned by the new Archivist of the United States, John W. Carlin, at an impressive appearance before the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy on June 20. Carlin noted that the backlog of 25 year old documents awaiting review at the National Archives had nearly quadrupled from 126 million pages ten years ago to 450 million pages today. "Unless the new executive order [requiring automatic declassification of most 25 year old documents] is successful, the situation will only get worse," Carlin said. "Not only do we have a serious problem today, it is accelerating." Carlin explained to the Commissioners that bulk declassification of old documents can be performed very inexpensively. He noted that when the President ordered the declassification of some 44 million pages of World War II and other records last November, the cost of implementing the order was a mere $386 per million pages declassified. A copy of the 1994 ISOO Annual Report, which contains the text of several recent executive orders on classification and other useful data, may be requested form the Information Security Oversight Office, 750 17th Street NW, Suite 530, Washington D.C. 20006.