30+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

Dubious Secrets

Over the years, we've seen countless cases of a government agency or official refusing to declassify a document on national security grounds, only to find out it's already been safely released to the public by another deparment.

The sheer quantity of these "dubious secrets" points up problems of subjectivity, poor communication, and overclassification within the secrecy system. 

Sometimes the decisions have real impact — halting criminal trials, for instance.  At other times they're downright silly.  Here are some of the more questionable ones we’ve encountered.  



August 1, 2015
Washington Post Op-Ed Highlights Dubious Secrets

Clinton e-mails "Potentially Classified"; So Is This Posting


February 21, 2014
Dubious Secrets of the Cuban Missile Crisis
Defense Department Deletes Khrushchev's Public Statements about Jupiter Missiles in Turkey
50-Year-Old Document on the Crisis Released in Glaringly Different Versions
The Contradictions of Defense Department Declassification Policy


October 12, 2012
Cuban Missile Crisis Revelations: Kennedy's Secret Approach to Castro
Declassified RFK documents yield new information on back-channel to Fidel Castro to avoid nuclear war


July 17, 2009
More Dubious Secrets
Systematic Overclassification of Defense Information 
Poses Challenge for President Obama's Secrecy Review

August 25, 2009
What were they hiding?

A side-by-side Comparison of the Bush and Obama Versions of the CIA Inspector General's Report on Torture

Update - May 3, 2004
Dubious Secrets Update
14 Million New Secrets Last Year: Here's One of Them

May 21, 2003
Dubious Secrets
This briefing book illustrate the way that agencies use and sometimes abuse the exemptions provided by the FOIA and presidential executive orders