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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

CIA search: Down for two years and counting

Yesterday, when I was writing a post about The CIA’s Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf, I was looking on CIA.gov for a link to all the occurences of this regular feature in the CIA’s magazine Studies in Intelligence. Naturally, I used the CIA’s own search box. I was a bit surprised to find that every search I tried got the same result: (click image to enlarge)

404b

In case you cannot read the above image, it says:

Search is Temporarily Unavailable

Search is temporarily unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please try again later.

Posted: Aug 27, 2012 04:31 PM
Last Updated: Aug 27, 2012 04:31 PM

I don’t know if the date is correct, but if it is, search as been “temporarily” unavailable on the CIA website for more than two years.

I did not find a robots.txt file on CIA.gov (which means that the site is open to public search services) and I was able to find pages there that Google and USA.gov had indexed. Interestingly, when I tried Yahoo and Bing, I did not find the same pages, though I did not check thoroughly enough to determine if the pages were not indexed at all or if my failure to find them was a quirk of the search engines and my search strategy.

This seems to me yet another example of how, when libraries use that all-purpose excuse that “all government information is on the web” to minimize collections and services, they are providing their communities with a hollow promise.

As we have pointed out repeatedly here, when we fail to collect government information, it can be deleted or altered or moved. But this disabled CIA search service gives us another lesson: When we do not have the information in our collections, we have no control over how it is organized or indexed. We are at the mercy of the agency and commercial search engines: They decide what to index, and how to index it, and what ads to show, and how to deal with privacy of users.

As governments move toward “e-government” they are moving to information-services and when they are the only ones who control the information, they are also the only ones that control the services for that information. A Library that wishes to demonstrate its value to its community would do well to ask itself what value it is adding when it turns over collections and services to others.

The CIA’s Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf

One of my guilty pleasures of govdocs is the reading lists and other book lists that agencies post. I find it fascinating to see which books an agency lists – and which they omit.

I only recently discovered one that has been around for a long time. It is the “Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf” – a regular feature in the Central Intelligence Agency’s Studies in Intelligence – a journal of the Center for the Study of Intelligence. The author is Hayden Peake, who serves in the CIA’s Directorates of Operations and Science and Technology. He has been compiling and writing reviews for the “Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf” since December 2002.

Here are some samples:

  • From Vol. 58 No. 3 Includes a review of No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, by Glenn Greenwald. One of three books about Snowden reviewed. Peake says of Greewald’s book that it is “..the most complete, though far from the most objective account of the Snowden affair to date. Lawyer-journalist Glenn Greenwald is the only one of the three authors to have met and interviewed Snowden.”

  • From Vol 58 No. 2. Includes a review of Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror, by Erik Prince; (a “set-the-record-straight” account).

  • From Vol 57 No. 2. Includes a review of Ian Fleming and SOE’s Operation Postmaster: The Untold Top Secret Story Behind 007, by Brian Lett. Peake says, “Lett goes on to make the sweeping claim that for Fleming, Operation Postmaster ‘was clearly inspirational. He stored it away in his mind and eventually used these men to create James Bond, the perfect Secret Agent….'” and “The successful Operation Postmaster is a small but significant part of SOE history, and Lett tells that story well. The frequent allusions to James Bond are only distractions.”

Enjoy.

The extraordinary growing impact of the history of science

In a recent paper published on arxiv.org entitled “On the Shoulders of Giants: The Growing Impact of Older Articles”, the authors examined the citation arc over time of older scholarly articles and how that impact has changed over time and with increased digital access. They found that citations to older articles (and therefore their impact) has substantially grown as older papers have become as easy to find as new ones. Check out the arxiv blog for more explanation.

I’d like to see similar research on historic government documents. My sense is that, over time, digitized government documents will be used more — IF they’re made findable in lots of library catalogs and on the open Web and IF govdocs librarians will do more to “seed the cloud” with Q&As and blog posts about interesting documents they come across in their work! — AND that as they’re used more, the original paper documents from which they were scanned will also be used more. Anyone want to do the research?

On the Shoulders of Giants: The Growing Impact of Older Articles. Alex Verstak, Anurag Acharya, Helder Suzuki, Sean Henderson, Mikhail Iakhiaev, Cliff Chiung Yu Lin, Namit Shetty

That raises an interesting question — if old papers are now as easy to find as modern ones, are they having as great an impact?

Today we get an answer of sorts thanks to the work of Alex Verstak and pals at Google. These guys have studied how often older articles are cited in modern papers and how this has changed since the advent of electronic publishing in the 1990s. Their conclusion is that older papers are having an increasingly important impact on modern science — that the distinction between old and new, between the historical and the modern, no longer creates a division in science.

These guys base their work on a database of citations in scientific papers published between 1990 and 2013 in 9 broad areas of research subdivided into 261 subject areas. For each discipline, they then plotted the percentage of citations to papers that were at least ten years old.

The results show a clear trend. “Our analysis indicates that, in 2013, 36% of citations were to articles that are at least 10 years old and that this fraction has grown 28% since 1990,” say Verstak and co. What’s more, the increase in the last ten years is twice as big as in the previous ten years, so the trend appears to be accelerating.

The results solve an ongoing conundrum among researchers involved in scientometrics, the study of science and scientific research. Some of these researchers have long argued that the ongoing digitisation of historical papers should automatically ensure that they are cited more often. Others point out that there has been a huge increase in the number scientific papers published in recent years so historical papers should be a smaller proportion of the total and therefore cited less.

The work of Verstak and co shows that the former effect has won out. “Now that finding and reading relevant older articles is about as easy as finding and reading recently published articles, significant advances aren’t getting lost on the shelves and are influencing work worldwide for years after,” they say.

via The Extraordinary Growing Impact Of The History Of Science — The Physics arXiv Blog — Medium.

President Obama supports net neutrality. How about a truly public “public utility”?

What the Internet actually looks like

The news is all over the Internet: President Obama today made a strong statement in support of Net neutrality, urging the FCC to adopt strict rules on net neutrality in order to assure a level Internet playing field and not allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to discriminate Internet traffic (news coverage here and here).

Yes, net neutrality is a good thing, and it’s about time Obama came out in support — after all, over 100,000 people signed the White House petition and the FCC Received 3.7 Million comments in support of Net neutrality!

However, we need more drastic (or common sense!) measures than simply assuring that ISPs provide a level Internet playing field. The big ISPs (e.g., Comcast and Verizon) are currently consolidating and are acting like drug cartels — don’t take my word for it, watch John Oliver’s piece on Net Neutrality below. So what we need is NOT a level playing field for the monopolistic ISPs — Obama wants FCC to regulate the Internet under under Title II of the Telecommunications Act would mean reclassifying it as a utility — but a playing field that is truly public and noncommercial.



State Legislatures: the frat houses of democracy

While most of us focus of tomorrow’s midterm election and the control of the U.S. Senate, John Oliver is looking at the places where most laws are really made these days. And it’s not in gridlocked Washington — it’s in the state legislatures. I’m really glad Oliver has raised this issue as well as the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

“All those conspiracy theories about a shadow government are actually true,” Oliver said. “Only, it’s not a group of billionaires meeting in a mountain lair in Zurich. It’s a bunch of pasty bureaucrats meeting in a windowless committee room in Lansing, Michigan.”


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