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).
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