More (sub. or ad req.) on the question of when a “secret” is not really “secret”:
In the past, the annual review was made public immediately on request. But policies implemented in 2003 granted agency employees widespread discretion to mark documents “official use only,” delaying or preventing the release of many documents once routinely made available.
The NNSA’s Sandia report card is unclassified, meaning it contains no secrets involving nuclear weapons or other national security matters. It has fallen instead into an expanding gray area of government information that taxpayers cannot see even though it is not legally “secret.”
Congressional investigators last year reported that the NNSA’s parent agency, the Department of Energy, held “many millions of pages” of such documents.
Any Department of Energy employee can mark a document off-limits to public view, and members of the public have little recourse short of a formal Freedom of Information Act request, which can take months to years to process.
Use of such quasi-secret designations “has escalated sharply over the last several years,” said Steven Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy policies who works for the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C.