Increasing National Security by Decreasing Secrecy

A transparent and accountable government makes us safer. The OTG coalition is on the front lines pushing for stronger congressional oversight and reducing unnecessary secrecy. Secret legal opinions have authorized torture and allow surveillance and drone programs to expand with minimal oversight and transparency. This growing body of secret law makes us less safe and less informed about what our government is doing in our name, but without our knowledge.

It is also estimated that between 50 and 90-percent of information labeled “classified” is done so improperly, and congressional commissions and advisory committees have found overclassification to be widespread for decades. To advance national security through openness and accountability, we push government agencies to reduce overclassification and increase declassification.

Open the Government’s work includes:

  • Fighting to ensure FOIA appropriately advances public access to information on U.S. wars and national security operations, and to change the culture of secrecy in the military so that there is accountability for waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • Advocating for reforms to increase public access to secret legal opinions produced by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Impacts:

  • In December 2016, after sustained pressure from OTG and our partners, the Obama administration decided that the torture report would be preserved under the Presidential Records Act. We continue to call on the federal government to release the full report to the public, and push for accountability for those who were involved in the program.
  • In 2017, the coalition successfully supported two new transparency provisions in the National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA), requiring reports from the administration on the legal and policy frameworks behind military and national security operations overseas, and on civilian casualties resulting from U.S. operations. We continue to monitor the government’s fulfillment of those reporting requirements.
  • OTG and our partners have also succeeded in preventing the Department of Defense from weakening FOIA through the NDAA for several years in a row.