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All That Secrecy Is Expensive

During the 2003 fiscal year, the federal government spent more than $6.5 billion securing classified information, according to a new “Secrecy Report Card” from OpenTheGovernment.org, a coalition of government watchdog and civil liberties groups. That’s an increase of more than $800 million from the previous year, according to the group, and a nearly $2 billion jump since 2001. But it’s only a best guess, really; the report card’s accounting doesn’t include a penny from the Central Intelligence Agency, which keeps even its overall budget classified.

The big problem with having too many secrets isn’t that it’s a waste of money; it’s that it jeopardizes security, according to William Leonard. He’s the director of the ISOO, and, essentially, the man in charge of the government’s classification policies.

By keeping knowledgeable parties from sharing what they know, “secrecy guarantees a less-than-optimal outcome,” Leonard told Wired News. “In analyzing intelligence, in developing military plans, there’s a price that gets paid.”

That’s a view echoed by both the 9/11 Commission, in its final report (PDF), and several of the Defense Department’s top current and former spies.

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