From Steven Aftergood at Secrecy News:
Although people have been complaining about abuse of the national security classification system for decades, such complaints have rarely been translated into real policy changes.
More than half a century ago, a Defense Department advisory committee warned that “Overclassification has reached serious proportions.” But despite innumerable attempts at corrective action over the years by official commissions, legislators, public interest groups and others, similar or identical complaints echo today. What is even more interesting and instructive, however, is that a few of those attempts did not fail. Instead, they led to specific, identifiable reductions in official secrecy, at least on a limited scale.
For example, the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) that was created in 1995 has consistently overturned the classification of information in the majority of documents presented for its review. And the Fundamental Classification Policy Review that was performed by the Department of Energy in 1995 eliminated dozens of obsolete classification categories following a detailed review of agency classification guides. These and just a few other exceptional efforts demonstrate that even deeply entrenched secrecy practices can be overcome under certain conditions.
Aftergood’s recent paper Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works has just been published in the Yale Law Review’s Spring 2009 edition (warning, pdf).