What a difference an election makes.

October 12, 2001: Attorney General John Ashcroft issues a memo to federal departments and agencies instructing that the policy of the government under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is to safeguard national security and law enforcement, protect sensitive business information and preserve personal privacy. Who’s not for that?

March 19, 2009: Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderState courts become battlegrounds in redistricting fights New Hampshire Republicans advance map with substantially redrawn districts Michigan redistricting spat exposes competing interests in Democratic coalition MORE releases the present administration’s guidelines, favoring disclosure and transparency. Secrecy will prevail only where disclosure would clearly harm a national interest. “The American people have the right to information about their government’s activities.” Who’s not for that?

How the government tilts its policies makes a vast difference. We presently have a $7 billion dollar classification machinery in government that has created a nation of secrets, as one writer reported. Under the Clinton administration, classifications decreased, declassifications increased, reclassification and derivative classifications decreased, and FOIA was expedited. Under the Bush administration, the results were reversed. In the Obama administration, all signs indicate a reverse pattern again.

Historically, many prestigious blue-ribbon, nonpartisan surveys of the classification of government documents concluded that classification is vastly overused, to the public’s disadvantage. Fundamental, permanent reform is needed.

I vote for the light of day, not the darkness of night.

Visit www.RonaldGoldfarb.com.