Top Secret

generic confidential top secret

In early March, FBI agents demanded access to boxes containing the files of the late columnist Jack Anderson. A leading investigative journalist for more than 50 years, Anderson broke countless stories embarrassing presidents and politicians.

"I got a knock at the door and two FBI agents showed up at my house," Mark Feldstein recalls. Feldstein is writing a book about Anderson- who died last December. He says the files went back to 1947.

"So I'm very perplexed why they want to be rooting around, doing a fishing expedition in a dead reporter's old files," he tells CBS News correspondent Joie Chen.

That fishing expedition extended to the National Archives in Washington. Quietly, the CIA and other government agencies were pulling public files from the shelves and stamping them secret.

"They were open and got shoved back into the vault," says Tom Blanton, head of the privately-run National Security Archives, also in Washington.

He and others were perplexed why documents were now considered a national secret.

Blanton mentions a CIA document recorded just after China infiltrated North Korea during the Korean war. The document, Blanton explains, claimed just two weeks before that there was little chance of the Chinese entering North Korea.

"Massive intelligence failure," Blanton says. "50,000 Americans died, in part because of that intelligence. Fifty years ago, widely published, widely known about, pulled from the files because it was embarrassing. There was no secret there."

In fact, National Archives officials say one third of the seized documents were removed improperly. And much of the remainder had little or no national security value.

"And what we know is that we are creating more new secrets today than anytime in the last 25 years," Blanton says.

It's estimated the government creates 16 million new "secrets" every year at a cost to taxpayers of more than $7 billion.

"There are real secrets, no doubt about it. But everybody's who's been on the inside of the system then comes out and looks back at it says, 'There's way too much classification,'" Blanton believes.