September 2005

Full Report

Executive Summary's second annual report, Secrecy Report Card 2005, shows the government continues to expand secrecy across a broad array of government action.

Government secrecy has been a problem for this and previous administrations. Particularly excessive in recent years, secrecy extends to more and more classified activity, nearly two-thirds of federal advisory meetings of outside experts, new patents hidden by "secrecy orders," and fast-growing domestic surveillance activity.

Perhaps most alarming, the report describes at least 50 types of designations the government now uses to restrict unclassified information deemed "sensitive but unclassified." Many of these numerous terms are duplicative, vague, and endanger the protection of necessary secrets by allowing excessive secrecy to prevail in our open society.

The 2005 version of the Secrecy Report Card also includes data about secrecy laws in the states, taxpayer savings from whistleblowers, and the 4 million public requests for information from government in 2004 (a new record).


  • For every dollar spent declassifying old secrets, federal agencies spent a record in 2004 of $148 creating and storing new secrets. Agency heads are shifting taxpayer dollars from efforts at declassifying pages of documents to efforts to secure its existing secrets.


  • With 1,754 secret surveillance orders approved in 2004, federal surveillance activity under the jurisdiction of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court doubled in five years.


  • Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of federal advisory committee meetings in 2004 were completely closed to the public. More were partially closed. Such secrecy undermines one of the key purposes of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.


  • The executive branch is using the "state secrecy" privilege 33 times more often than during the height of the Cold War.
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