Much of the recent news out of Washington D.C. has included references to classified information, security clearances, and the many rules and mechanisms that have been developed to protect such important material. The amount of information marked secret in the U.S. is truly enormous–by one estimate, there are more than a trillion pages of classified information held by the U.S. government, an amount more than 200 times that of the information contained in the Library of Congress.
“Contemplate these numbers: about five times as many pages are being added to the classified universe than are being brought to the storehouses of human learning, including all the books and journals on any subject in any language collected in the largest repositories on the planet.” Harvard scholar Peter Galison
There is also an exponential function around classified information, insofar as any piece of information that references a piece of classified information must itself become classified, and any reference to that piece of information must also be classified, and so on. So-called “Derivative classification actions” vastly outnumber original classifications. By one calculation, “the number of derivative classification actions in 2008 numbered over one hundred times the number of original classifications, at 23,217,557.”