Ronald Goldfarb, writing in The Hill, points out that 90 percent of the 16 million classified documents generated each year should be open in the first place. “The burden,” he writes, “ought to be on those classifying confidentially to make the clear case for secrecy, and the presumption should be for openness.”

Ronald Goldfarb in The Hill:

Presently, over 4,000 federal government officials have the power initially to classify documents. The classification system costs us $7 billion a year to classify 17,000 documents a day, 16 million per year. In addition, over 3 million employees have the power to declare a derivative classification if they use, excerpt or paraphrase a classified document — they do so 5,000 instances a day, 50 million documents a year. The natural tendency is to err on the side of safety and overdo it. Categories of classification are subjective, and different classifiers draw different conclusions. With no sunset provision to undo these classifications, and an uncertain, slow and expensive FOIA system, documents tend to stay classified.

The Wiki experience shows how silly some of the secrecy has been shielding idiosyncratic behavior of eccentric officials, and how enlightening some of the disclosures have been — our wasting money by giving it to corrupt officials in Afghanistan.

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