from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 60
June 28, 2005


Two new searchable archives of thousands of Congressional Research Service reports are now publicly available online.

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) unveiled its "Open CRS" web site this week, which offers a searchable, consolidated archive of several large CRS collections, including that of the Federation of American Scientists. The CDT archive, skillfully engineered by staffer Joshua Ruihley, also encourages users to collect and submit additional CRS reports to the collection.

See CDT's Open CRS site here:

The University of North Texas (UNT) Libraries has produced its own archive of CRS reports. It is even larger than the CDT collection, with which it naturally overlaps, though it includes numerous updates of the same report (e.g. nearly two dozen marginally different copies of "Intelligence Issues for Congress"). Unlike the CDT archive, the UNT search engine does not currently permit sorting by date to identify the most recent report on a subject.

See "Congressional Research Service Reports, Hosted by UNT Libraries" here:

See also "Web site lists private government reports" by Ted Bridis, Associated Press, June 27:


Why aren't non-confidential Congressional Research Service reports automatically made available to the public? At first glance, the policy appears to reflect institutional arrogance or reflexive secrecy on the part of CRS and the Congress. But there is more to it than that, congressional officials say.

CRS repeatedly stresses that it works for Congress, and only for Congress.

"CRS assists every Member and committee," said Director Daniel P. Mulhollan in May 23 testimony before the House Appropriations Committee. "All of our work is confidential and focuses solely, directly, and specifically on the needs of the congressional community. CRS has no public mission."

By insisting on this point, CRS is distinguishing itself from the larger and higher-profile Government Accountability Office.

More subtly, CRS is repudiating any comparison with the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which was dismantled by Congressional Republicans in 1995, an event that is seared in the consciousness of CRS officials.

What CRS is saying is that it has no institutional agenda of its own aside from support to members of Congress, and that, unlike OTA, it takes no position on disputed policy matters.

CRS believes that its uniqueness as a congressional support agency, which constitutes its central claim to continued funding, would only be diluted by direct interactions with public consumers.

"Over time, CRS products might come to be written with a large public audience in mind and could no longer be focused solely on congressional needs," CRS Director Mulhollan said in a written statement yesterday.

And the current congressional leadership apparently agrees.

"CRS has received clear indication from its oversight committees that no change in the current policy is authorized," Director Mulhollan wrote yesterday.

"It is important to recognize that while the restriction on public access to CRS products is frequently characterized as CRS 'resistance,' the reality is that the policy is a congressional one," he noted.

In any case, "As CRS obtains no copyright in its products, little can be done to discourage the trend toward further public availability of CRS products brought about without the permission of a Member or committee."

A 1999 CRS memorandum outlined several reasons why it believed direct public access to CRS products would have unfavorable legal and institutional consequences.

See "Congressional Policy Concerning the Distribution of CRS Written Products," March 9, 1999:


The Journal of National Security Law and Policy is a promising new forum for scholarly research and writing on current topics in the contentious field of national security law.

The Journal, co-edited by Stephen Dycus and John Cary Sims, aims to transcend the usual partisan and ideological divisions and to contribute to a public dialog. The Journal's unusually diverse editorial board includes noted scholars and national security experts, current and former government officials, and me.

The first issue of the Journal has been published online in its entirety and includes, for example, a timely discussion of the constitutionality of controls on "sensitive but unclassified" information.

See the Journal of National Security Law and Policy here:


The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence recently reported a bill that would not only reauthorize portions of the USA Patriot Act that are set to expire, but would also expand existing authorities to permit the use of administrative subpoenas in national security investigations.

The move remains controversial.

"This significant new investigative authority and other proposed additions or changes to present law... are problematic and may even be damaging to our national security protections," several Democratic members of the Intelligence Committee wrote in a dissenting view.

A copy of the 58 page SSCI report "To Permanently Authorize Certain Provisions of the USA Patriot Act...," dated June 16 and published this week, is available here:


The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) announced today that it would proceed to publish a paper concerning the alleged risk of botulinum poisoning of the U.S. milk supply by terrorists. The Department of Health and Human Services had asked the journal to withhold publication of the paper, which it described as a "road map for terrorists."

The paper, by Lawrence Wein and Yifan Liu of Stanford University, has also drawn criticism as alarmist and unfounded after Prof. Wein published a version of it on the New York Times op-ed page on May 30 (Secrecy News, June 14).

A stinging rebuttal to the Wein op-ed, prepared by independent scientists Milton Leitenberg and George Smith, is posted here:

The controversy was aired in "Publication heeds U.S., pulls terror article" by Rebecca Carr, Atlanta Journal, June 26:

and also in an interview I did with Bob Garfield titled "Toxic Scenario," NPR On the Media, June 17:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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