Government Secrecy Under Bush Unprecedented

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Surprising no sentient being (but offering lots of good evidence), a new report from openthegovernment.org shows “a continued
expansion of government secrecy across a broad array of agencies and actions.” Reminding that information created by or for the federal government belongs to the American public, the exec summary notes, “The current administration has exercised an unprecedented level of restriction of access to information about, and suppression of discussion of, the federal government’s policies and decisions.”

Among the report’s highlights:

  • For every dollar spent declassifying old secrets, federal agencies spent $134 in 2005 creating and storing new secrets. The serious imbalance between taxpayer dollars devoted to generating secrets versus those spent to release records that are no longer sensitive continues.
  • With 2,072 secret surveillance orders approved in 2005, federal surveillance activity under the jurisdiction of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
    Court more than doubled in five years.
  • Over 60 percent of federal advisory committee meetings in 2005 were completely closed to the public.
    More were partially closed.
  • Since 2001, the “state secrets” privilege has been used
    a reported 22 times—an average in 5.5 years (4) that is
    close to twice as high as the previous 24 years (2.46).

    In the 211 years of our Republic to 2000, fewer than
    600 signing statements that took issue with the bills
    were issued. [See this recent Mother Jones piece by Cameron Scott on what exactly a “state secret” is, and who gets to decide.] In five years, President Bush has issued at
    least 132, challenging 810 provisions of laws.

Full report (PDF) here.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate