Shaheen to Obama: 'Over-classification' in government costs taxpayers money

Shaheen called on the administration to take the recommendations of the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) and establish a White House-led steering committee to begin addressing the issue. 

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“I agree with the recommendations of the PIDB that establishing a White House working group on classification and declassification would be a meaningful first step toward addressing this issue,” the letter stated. “One of the primary challenges of this type of reform effort will be ensuring active participation from stakeholders across the national security community.”

Shaheen said the current system is outdated and results in the over-classification of government documents at the expense of transparency and taxpayer dollars.

Shaheen said a single intelligence agency classifies a petabyte of information every 18 month — equivalent to approximately 20 million filing cabinets filled with text, or about 13.3 years of high-definition video. She said the cost of storing these files has doubled over 10 years from $4.7 billion in 2001 to $11.36 billion in 2011.

"The American public has a right to access official records in order to provide appropriate oversight of their elected officials," Shaheen wrote. "I hope you will consider establishing a White House steering committee on security classification reform and continue to address the problem of over-classification in our government."

This article was updated on May 31.