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WASHINGTON – In the years since 9/11 the United States government has spent over a trillion dollars on national security measures that have increased government secrecy exponentially. A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union, “Drastic Measures Required,” illustrates the vast and systemic use of secrecy, including secret agencies, secret committees in Congress, a secret court and even secret laws, to keep government activities away from public scrutiny.
“Our government has reached unparalleled levels of secrecy,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Though this administration’s attempts to be transparent are laudable, the reality has been that it is just as secretive as its predecessor. Congress has the tools to curb this excessive secrecy but it must be more aggressive in using them. It’s time to drastically overhaul the way our government classifies information.”
“Drastic Measures Required” highlights the significant powers Congress holds under the Constitution to stem the tide of government secrecy: the authority to regulate the military and national security activities, as well as the tools to investigate executive branch authorities. The report lays out specific recommendations for Congress to help turn the tide of excessive government secrecy –including reforming the misused state secrets privilege, strengthening congressional oversight of national security programs and enacting legislation to limit and regulate the executive branch’s classification power.
“By undermining our constitutional system of checks and balances, secrecy harms our democracy and makes our government less effective. Not only that, increasingly allowing our government to operate in the shadows lets errors and abuses stand unchecked and makes us less safe,” said Michael German, ACLU national security policy counsel and former FBI agent. “Piecemeal reform has failed. Congress needs to carry out its duty to address this threat to our democracy by taking drastic measures.”
The ACLU’s report, “Drastic Measures Required,” is here: www.aclu.org/files/assets/secrecyreport_20110727.pdf