EXAMINING THE COSTS OF OVERCLASSIFICATION ON TRANSPARENCY AND SECURITY
FULL HOUSE COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM
HEARING DATE: DECEMBER 7, 2016 9:00 AM
To examine overclassification of national security information and other government information, including controlled unclassified information and other designations.
To discuss the causes and unintended results of excessive restrictions, and to discuss potential solutions.
Congress established the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy in 1994, which stated “a tension has existed between the legitimate interest of the public being kept informed about the activities of its Government and the legitimate interest of the Government in certain circumstances in withholding information; in short, between openness and secrecy.”
The struggle to balance openness and secrecy persists nearly 20 years after this report was issued.
The Commission issued 16 recommendations, most of which have not yet been fully implemented.
Overclassification and excessive secrecy have negative effects on national security and government accountability.
Excessive classification prevents Congress from fully investigating and holding government agencies accountable.
The federal government spent more than $100 billion during the last 10 years on security classification activities, and yet, it is estimated 50 to 90 percent of classified material is not properly labeled.
Federal agencies often mark documents classified and withhold information for decades simply because they contain embarrassing material.