For a nation that prizes openness and transparency in government, America certainly has a lot of secrets and is paying huge sums to maintain them.
Last year, the federal government spent at least $11 billion to guard its secrets, the New York Times reports.
That is just the part that can be revealed. It does not include what the CIA, National Security Agency and other spy agencies spend. Their expenses are classified.
When all is taken into account, the total may rise to about $13 billion.
Compare that to 10 years before: in 2001, the United States spent $4.7 billion on secrecy. That seemed like a lot then.
Obviously, the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks increased the spending on secrecy. But keeping Cold War secrets classified is costly, too.
There have been six prosecutions of government officials for leaking classified information to the news media, the Times points out.
The recurring questions arise: Do we need to classify so much information? Can we declassify more documents, particularly those from decades before?
Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists said: The credibility of the classification system is collapsing under the weight of bogus secrets. He cited the classification of agency expenses as an example.
The CIA has battled lawsuits seeking the release of information on agency personnel who directed an anti-Fidel Castro group that clashed with Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Recently a court upheld the agencys desire to keep secret part of its official history of the 1961 Bay of Pigs operation, in which the CIA trained Cuban exiles to invade Cuba in a bid to topple Mr. Castro.
John P. Fitzpatrick of the Information Security Oversight Office cited reasons for keeping old secrets from the public. It could be the name of a source, a method of collection thats still in use, or an agreement with a foreign government that still needs to be protected.
Americans understand there are valid reasons for secrecy. But they have a sense that too much information is kept under lock and key for too long. The United States needs to open more files.