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February 10, 2006


mark safranski

We overclassify things - by the millions of documents per year - that really do not need to be kept secret.

We do not keep our genuine secrets any more secret than we do the abovementioned bureaucratic crap.

Inflation is a blade that cuts both ways.

John Robb

Exactly. The problem is that decision making, efficiency, and moral cohesion suffers in an environment dominated by secrecy. The use of secrecy needs to be strictly controlled in order to minimize its debilitating effects.

Fortunately, given our current foe, the amount of secrecy we need to prosecute our "long" war is tiny. Unfortunately, we have increased our secrecy to levels approaching the worst moments of the cold war.


Classification in the US government has gone from being a legitimate practice to protect our nations holiest of holies, to being a tool to intimidate and overawe the average American. If someone is told that something can't be revealed because it is "classified", then usually they assume that there is something truly important there, or the person they are talking to is someone that is quite important.
Also, the vast trove of "classified" information just increases the desire to classify things. Like e-mails and other communications, when there is an option for urgent or other signifiers they are almost always used to give the document some legitimacy.

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