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The U.S. Government Keeps Too Many Secrets

The Atlantic – American officials classify too much information, from the trivial to the politically inconvenient. The overreliance on secrecy invites abuse. “That the U.S. government has a problem with classifying information—the process of identifying and protecting documents and discussions that must be kept secret to preserve national security—was established long before President Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal returned the subject to the headlines. Eight blue-ribbon U.S. government commissions have addressed the subject since World War II, Elizabeth Goitein, a veteran transparency advocate, told me. Each of them deemed that overclassification, as she put it, “is rampant.” Classifying information is a key part of how the U.S. government functions and is able to carry out sensitive tasks, but the problem is that too much national-security information—from the trivial to the politically inconvenient—gets labeled “confidential,” “secret,” or “top secret,” meaning that only those with the corresponding government clearance can access it…Then there are the many scandals that were shielded from view—not just from the public, but from government officials who might have put a stop to them—at least in part by classification. The higher the classification on a piece of information, the fewer people in government who can access it. Goitein, who directs the national-security program at the Brennan Center, called this “a time-honored technique of keeping other agencies or other officials out of something in order to minimize resistance.”…

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