That's Classified, Ma'am


Anecdotally, the Bush administration has earned a reputation for secrecy, whether it be from tight-lipped Cabinet officials or then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's 2001 recommendation to the Executive Branch that it err on the side of non-disclosure while processing Freedom of Information Act requests.

This reticence is measurable, thanks to the federal government's Information Security Oversight Office. Its annual report, released in April, shows that in George W. Bush's first term the number of new classifications nearly doubled (from 8.7 million documents to 15.7 million), while the number of declassifications was slashed by three-quarters (from 100 million to 28 million).

If current trends continue, during Bush's second term the number of annual classifications should top the number of declassifications for the first time since his father was elected president in 1988. The numbers also reflect the great declassification spike during the presidency of Bill Clinton, who signed executive orders in 1994 and 1996 dumping hundreds of millions of World War II records into the public domain.

Bush and his deputies Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have been actively trying to reverse what they see as a dangerous amount of government openness. It looks like they've been successful.

Graph (not available on-line): Annual Classifications and Declassifications (in millions)