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Congress takes a shot at secrecy

  1. Dec 25, 2007 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_7794950

    This is refreshing to say the least. I understand the need for some secrecy in government, but it has gone way too far. And even within the existing FOIA released documents, some have been blacked-out to the point of absurdity. For example, many official defense deparrtment papers discussing UFO encounters have 80% or more of the information deleted, which understandably leads to distrust and conspiracy theories.

    In defense of the government, one problem is the shear volume of classified information left over from the cold war. It has been estimated that over one-billion documents await review for declassification. I can only imagine how the war on terror has affected this issue.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 25, 2007 #2
    Ironically the Bush administration has been pushing to reclassify older documents that had been made public in the past. The CIA started the reclassification program during the last year of the Clinton administration. After 911 they went off the deep end with the idea.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/21/p...gin&adxnnlx=1198610222-ZxkTGTECTgjJO8yppRilSg

    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB179/
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2007
  4. Dec 25, 2007 #3

    Hurkyl

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    I'm not familiar with the details FOIA (and the document is too imposing to read right now)...


    Are agencies simply allowed to outright deny a request? Or is it far easier to satisfy a request in this manner than it is to deny the request? If the answer to either of these questions is 'yes', then your criticism is entirely unfair.


    How specific are the exemptions? I am fairly worried about this opening up a back-door for obtaining information (or partial information) that should be protected from disclosure.
     
  5. Dec 25, 2007 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    If I understand the law correctly, they must release any documentation that in doing so does not threaten national security. In my experience it appears that much of the information blacked-out contains the names of individuals, countries, or politically sensitive information. Privacy rights may sometimes require that the information is kept secret [note that some previously blacked out documents were later released in their entirety]. And they could still do this, but at least it would require an explanation.

    One really has to wonder what information contained in a 1950s DOD document could possibly affect national security today.
     
  6. Dec 26, 2007 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    This is a good example found online.
    http://www.nsa.gov/ufo/ufo00013.pdf

    Note that we can't even determine the date.
     
  7. Dec 26, 2007 #6
    I am really curious the decision made to reclassify documents dating back to 1948.

    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB179/


    Either they want to try to rebury our sins of the past or they are going through an extreme episode of mission creep.

    Perhaps they do have something to hide the George washington Security Archive is easily searchable, yet no documnets will be found concerning UFO's. I can only assume that no documents were ever declassified.

    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2007
  8. Dec 26, 2007 #7

    Hurkyl

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    Because, of course, it couldn't possibly be because it's the right thing to do. :rolleyes:
     
  9. Dec 26, 2007 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    It belongs to us, not them. We are entitled to an explanation.

    There has been far to much secrecy; esp with this adminstration.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2007
  10. Dec 26, 2007 #9
  11. Dec 26, 2007 #10

    Ivan Seeking

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    There is a UFO researcher name Stanton Friedman who has requested and obtained a good amount of this sort of information, and he can show you page after page of nothing but black ink in some of the documents that he has received. It reaches the point of being a bad joke.

    People need to understand that ALL of this information belongs to us; not some government agency.

    Note that I just happen to have scoured the archives for the UFO stuff, but it applies to many subjects. Interestingly, in many documents, UFO encounters are described in detail - sometimes vivid detail - so that doesn't seem to be the problem. Of course the true-believers see it differently and therein lies the problem: Secrecy breeds distrust; and rightfully so! Secrecy must be kept to a minimum if a government is to earn the trust of the people.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2007
  12. Dec 26, 2007 #11

    Hurkyl

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    I think you need to specify the antecedents of "it", "us", "them", and "this".
     
  13. Dec 28, 2007 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    "It" is all information that the U.S. government possesses. "Them" is the people and agencies who possess this information. "Us" is the people - US citizens. "This" [in this case] refers again to all information in possession by the government.

    Why did you need clarification?
     
  14. Dec 28, 2007 #13

    Hurkyl

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    Because you have adopted a blatantly unreasonable position. I thought it a good idea to let you clarify what you meant, since until now there was a reasonable chance you didn't mean what it looked like you meant.
     
  15. Dec 28, 2007 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    Could you clarify what you think that I'm saying?

    You seem to be objecting to the notion of a government of, by, and for the people.
     
  16. Dec 28, 2007 #15

    Hurkyl

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    I'm objecting to the notion that all information possessed by the government should be publicly available.
     
  17. Dec 28, 2007 #16

    Ivan Seeking

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    I didn't say that. I said that we the people own it - every bit of it. "They" may only keep secrets with "our" approval.

    We all agree to certain rules and laws that allow this to happen, but the proper people must constantly scrutinize those who are keeping secrets, and what secrets are kept.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2007
  18. Dec 28, 2007 #17

    Hurkyl

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    You should be able to appreciate why you are misinterpreted when your objection to 'stuff is being kept secret' is 'the information belongs to us'.
     
  19. Dec 28, 2007 #18

    Ivan Seeking

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    Perhaps, but it is fundamentally true nonetheless.

    I had assumed that this was your objection but wasn't sure. I thought that you may be objecting on other legal grounds.
     
  20. Dec 28, 2007 #19

    Hurkyl

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    My initial queries were about the legal issues. (which haven't been satisfied)

    Post #7 was just a reaction to edwards "the government is doing something. It must be bad!"-style comment, and my subsequent posts have been responding to your "the information belongs to us" comments. (Which are still mystifying, since they were stated like an objection to what I said, which doesn't make sense given your explanation in post #16)
     
  21. Dec 28, 2007 #20
    Short answer, no. See statute governing denial in (a)(6)(F) and (b) for exemptions.

    GAO-07-491T has the breakdown of processed FOIA requests in Table 5 for the 25 agencies in 2005. Also, there are only 5,509.21 (don't ask me where the .21 comes from)--dedicated and loaned. For comparison, consider that the IRS has a staff 86,000 thousand to process nearly 60 million filings and conduct over a million audits. If FOIA request processing is assumed to be at least as time consuming as auditing, you'd expect at least some 8600 people throughout the agency who do work on nothing but processing these requests. This is a good assumption, as SSA has 152 people, loan and dedicated, that processed some 90 percent of the full grants in 2005 (19.5 million or so) but only about a tenth of a percent of partials, denials and undisclosed processings.


    There are 9 enumerated exemptions presently. You can judge for yourself on how specific they are.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2007
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