President Obama has claimed his administration is the most transparent in history. But excessive secrecy is still a problem within the Justice Department, according to a new internal audit.
Earlier this week, the DOJ’s inspector general published a report reviewing how the department has been classifying information. The secrecy review, which involved the IG’s office conducting more than 100 interviews with officials from agencies including the FBI and the DEA, found that there was a “persistent misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of certain classification processes.” The audit criticized what it described as “deficiencies” in how the DOJ classifies information: In a review of a sample of documents, unclassified information was wrongly designated secret in several instances.
The overclassification of information has become a major issue for the U.S. government since 9/11, with a spike in sensitive national security-related programs leading to spiralling secrecy. In the realm of surveillance, in particular, extreme secrecy has become commonplace, with the DOJ and FBI often heavy-handedly redacting or withholding large portions of documents in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. According to the Information Security Oversight Office, in 2012 alone, executive branch agencies issued more than 95 million “classification decisions.” That’s a 3 percent increase on the figure for 2011 (92 million), and a 25 percent rise on the figure for 2010 (77 million).