Intelligence: Costly, Confidential and Climbing

Archives

June 28, 2008: After peaking at half a million documents a year at the end of the Cold War, U.S. government bureaucrats classifying material (confidential, secret, or top secret) declined to 105,263 by 1996. Then it began climbing again, and peaked once more in 2004 at 351,150 documents. Since then it has been declining, to 233,639 documents last year. There is also increase in "derivative classification" (reconfigured classified data, as in bits of older classified documents combined into new docs). This has been rising even faster. There were 5.6 million such actions in 1996, and 22 million last year. That's another reason to declassify old documents, to reduce these "derivative" documents.

All these secret documents cost money (to do the paperwork to determine what should be a secret, and to guard all those secrets). Last year, the secrecy bill in the U.S. government was nearly $10 billion. This is an increase of 4.6 percent from the previous year. Attempts to reduce this cost rely on classifying less, and coming up with ways to declassify this stuff inexpensively (otherwise the mass of classified data will grow, and become even more expensive to look after). More data is now being classified as "material that will automatically declassify in ten years" (easy to do with a lot of technical or operational data). Since 1980, 1.37 billion pages of classified documents have been declassified. That number has been increasing lately. From a low of 28 million documents in 2005, it increased to 37.2 million documents last year. But it's not fast enough, as the body of classified data (whose actual size is classified) continues to grow, as does the expense to protect it from unauthorized eyes.

 


Article Archive

Intelligence: Current 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close