WikiLeaks has release 6,780 Congressional Research Service reports. The oldest report released goes back to 1990, but WikiLeaks says that the release of these reports "represents the total output of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) electronically available to Congressional offices."
WikiLeaks has merged its report collection with the reports into OpenCRS, has set up mirror sites, and made the collection downloadable in compressed form and via Torrent.
- Change you can download: a billion in secret Congressional reports, EDITORIAL, WikiLeaks, February 8, 2009.
Now, if we just had a reliable way of getting all new ones into the public domain!
Presidential Libraries: The Federal System and Related Legislation, by Harold C. Relyea, updated November 26, 2008, Order Code RS20825. (PDF, 6 pp).
Thanks to FAS.
Now that a new administration will be coming into office soon, it is more important than ever to encourage our Government to make Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports publicly accessible online. Here at FGI, the topic of CRS Reports has been written about often, but I was inspired to create this blog post and take action after seeing Starr Hoffman’s DLC conference presentation last week (click on "Search Document" and enter "Starr Hoffman". Her PowerPoint, "Encouraging An Informed Citizenry" will come up as a PDF to download).
Starr is responsible for maintaining University of North Texas's Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports Archive. In her presentation, she gives tips for writing to Congressmen and lists some past legislative efforts (Bills that never passed both houses of Congress) to make CRS Reports publicly accessible. I have gathered some other Bills, as well as all the contact information for the sponsoring Congressmen and have included them in my Delicious.com "CRS" tag as well as in this list:
Senator John McCain
Introduced S. 1578, S. 393, S.Res. 21, S. Res. 54, & co-sponsored S. Res. 401
Senator Mike Enzi
Co-sponsored S. 393
Co-sponsored S. 393, S. Res. 21, S. Res. 54, and S. Res. 401.
Senator Tom Coburn
H.R. 4582 co-sponsor when he was in the House.
Senator Jim DeMint
Introduced H.R. 4582 when he was in the House.
Senator Joe Lieberman
Introduced S. Res. 401 and co-sponsored S. Res. 21 and S. Res. 54
Senator Tom Harkin
Co-sponsored S. Res. 54 and S. Res. 401
Senator Susan M. Collins
Co-sponsored S. Res. 401
Senator John Cornyn
Co-sponsored S. Res. 401
James A. Jacobs did a Google search this past June for "Received through the CRS Web" OR "CRS Report for Congress" combined with site:house.gov and then again for site:senate.gov and got around 600 hits with each. For example, here are some domains he found that you can search within for CRS Reports or to search for those in Congress who may support public access to CRS Reports: bartlett.house.gov, holt.house.gov, radanovich.house.gov, weldon.house.gov, bennelson.senate.gov, carper.senate.gov, lugar.senate.gov, murray.senate.gov, etc.
For more information on CRS Report legislation efforts, visit this site which contains a "Campaign for Online Access" section.
Spread the word about this post and good luck in writing to your Congressmen! If you have other ideas, please share them in the comments.
This is a presentation by Stephen Schultze, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard on the topic "Open Access to Government Documents." He focuses on CRS reports, Oregon State Codes, and PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). The presentation is available as streaming video, downloadable video, and as a downloadable audio-only MP3 file.
- Open Access to Government Documents, Berkman Center. October 13, 2008.
In the past twenty years, a remarkable number of government documents have been put online. In some cases, these documents are made easily and freely accessible. In others, technology has failed to overcome barriers or even created new barriers to access. One particular subset of documents -- opinions, dockets, and the full public record in federal court cases -- remain behind a pay wall. Although the U.S. Government cannot hold copyright in documents it creates, it has for a long time long charged for the cost of creating and maintaining these documents. While the courts understandably seek to pay for the services they provide, this talk will argue that there is an alternative path in which the public benefits far outweigh the costs. Stephen Schultze makes a dynamic case for free access to government documents, in honor of Open Access Day 2008.
Produced 13 Oct 2008
Steven Aftergood (of the Federation of American Scientists and Secrecy News) has long been working on the issue of releasing Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports out to the public. In fact, for many years, he's posted them on his site in spite of the fact that the federal government refuses to publish and distribute CRS reports to federal depository libraries and the public.
In a post a couple of weeks ago (yes I'm behind!) entitled, "CRS Reports Are Still Out of Bounds," Aftergood highlighted exactly why CRS reports are so important and why they need to be accessible (go to the story for live links to the reports mentioned):
When a military judge ruled last month that Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, could be tried for war crimes, the first footnote in his July 14 opinion (pdf) was to a Congressional Research Service report. (Hamdan was convicted yesterday for material support of terrorism.)
But Military Judge Keith J. Allred, lacking an official source for the CRS analysis by Jennifer K. Elsea (with which he ultimately differed), provided a link instead (see footnote 1 on page 3) to a copy of the document on the Federation of American Scientists web site.
By doing so, the Judge simultaneously highlighted the centrality of such CRS analyses to public discourse and the strange fact that these official documents are still not approved for direct release to the public.
Perhaps he also implicitly affirmed that FAS and other public interest publishers of CRS collections are helping to compensate for that continuing policy defect by providing the online access to CRS reports that Congress has denied.
Way to go Steven Aftergood and Secrecy News!!
And on the shameless plug side of things, I’ve begun harvesting sites that post digital CRS reports (including FAS) and making them searchable and accessible at the Internet Archive. Please check out the site and let me know if there are other sites that I’ve missed (jrjacobs AT stanford DOT edu).
Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek, has published a "lost chapter" from the 1993 Iran-Contra report:
- Launching the Private Network an 84-page draft, plus a CRS study on "Public Diplomacy, Project Democracy and Contra Aid" (attached as an Appendix). (PDF, 3.4 Mb, 104pp).
For background and Parry's report on this chapter, see: Iran-Contra's 'Lost Chapter' By Robert Parry, Consortium News, June 30, 2008.
[T]he Iran-Contra scandal's "lost chapter" is a narrative describing how Ronald Reagan's administration brought CIA tactics to bear domestically to reshape the way Americans perceived the world.
For a copy of the document, National Security Decision Directive NSDD-77, "Management of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security," January 14, 1983, which is mentioned in the chapter, and other related documents, see: Rumsfeld's Roadmap to Propaganda, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 177. January 26, 2006.
Volume 1 of the three volume Final Report Of The Independent Counsel For Iran/Contra Matters is available online here from the Federation of American Scientists, and here from the Federal Bulletin Board, and here from permanent.access.gpo.gov.
OpenCRS has posted another list of "fugitive" Congressional Research Service reports -- reports that are not yet openly available and online. They ask for your help by requesting them from your members of Congress and then uploading them to the OpenCRS.
Check out the list and request one that matches the needs of your own library and upload it today!
There is even a facebook group for OpenCRS.
Here is an update on Senator Lieberman's Congressional Research Service bill, S.Res. 401. and a comment on it:
Senator pushes alternative to full CRS report access, By Dan Friedman, Government Executive, March 28, 2008.
The story says:
After consultations among committee aides, CRS and others, a prototype will be rolled out "very soon," according to a CRS spokeswoman and Gantman. The plan aims to balance public needs and the views of "a significant number of members" who oppose Lieberman's bill due to their belief some CRS reports should remain confidential, Gantman said.
But this approach would disappoint government transparency advocates who say all taxpayer-funded reports should be publicly available. "They should simply move on the Lieberman proposal or something like it and get on with their job," said Stephen Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists.
CRS Access Update, Speech or Debate Clause, by John Wonderlich, The Open House Project, April 3rd, 2008
John notes that reports of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) are published and searchable on the agencies’ Web sites and are syndicated in RSS and this hasn’t harmed their effectiveness or perceived objectivity at all.
The Congressional Research Service has issued a report entitled (45 page pdf) Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2007, updated January 14, 2008 . It reviews hundreds of instances in which the United States has sent military forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict to protect U.S. citizens or promote U.S. interests. The listed deployments vary in size and length, legal authorization and significance. In eleven separate cases listed in bold-face type the U.S. formally declared war against foreign nations; but for most the status of the action under domestic or international law hasn't been addressed. A sample entry:
"1798-1800 Undeclared Naval War with France. This contest included land actions, such as that in the Dominican Republic, city of Puerto Plata, where marines captured a French privateer under the guns of the forts. Congress authorized military action through a series of statutes.
1801-05 Tripoli. The First Barbary War included the U.S.S. George Washington and Philadelphia affairs and the Eaton expedition, during which a few marines landed with United States Agent William Eaton to raise a force against Tripoli in an effort to free the crew of the Philadelphia. Tripoli declared war but not the United States, although Congress authorized U.S. military action by statute."