Alex Constantine - July 3, 2012
THE US government spent more than $US11 billion to protect its secrets last year, double the cost of classification a decade ago - and that is only the part it will reveal. The sum does not include costs incurred by the CIA, the National Security Agency and other spy agencies, whose spending is - yes - classified.
John Fitzpatrick, head of the Information Security Oversight Office, which oversees the government's classification effort and released the annual report, said that adding the excluded agencies would increase the spending total by ''less than 20 per cent.'' That suggests that the real total may be about $13 billion, more than the entire annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Spending on secrecy has increased steadily for more than a decade, driven in part by the expanding counterterrorism programs after the 2001 terrorist attacks but also by the continuing protection of Cold War secrets dating back decades. The total cost for 2001 was $4.7 billion, the oversight office said.
The spending report, showing an increase of 12 per cent from 2010, comes at a time of intense public debate over secrecy and leaks of classified information. Six prosecutions of government officials for disclosing classified information to the news media have occurred under the Obama administration, and two new leak investigations are under way.
The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks set off a furore in 2010 and 2011 by obtaining and releasing hundreds of thousands of confidential US government documents.
But independent experts say the ballooning classification system is the problem, sweeping huge quantities of unremarkable information in along with genuinely important secrets.
Steven Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, said: ''We are classifying far too much information … The credibility of the classification system is collapsing under the weight of bogus secrets.''
NEW YORK TIMES