from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 18
February 9, 2006

Secrecy News Blog:


A long-simmering dispute over the role and character of the Congressional Research Service now threatens to boil over in the form of a clash between CRS management and CRS analyst Louis Fisher.

Fisher, a specialist in American government and separation of powers issues, is one of the superstars of the CRS, whose work is widely cited and universally respected by his academic colleagues.

He "is a national treasure, the foremost expert on the constitutional law of the presidency," wrote George C. Edwards III, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University in a letter to the Librarian of Congress last week. He "is widely regarded as the nation's preeminent expert on the institutional powers of Congress and the presidency" according to Cornell W. Clayton of Washington State University.

Now Fisher, age 71, is in trouble at CRS for having expressed critical views of Bush Administration policy.

See "Expert on Congress's Power Claims He Was Muzzled for Faulting Bush" by Yochi Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, February 9.

The roots of the dispute go back several years and derive from an unresolved disagreement about the proper function of the CRS, and the nature of analytical objectivity.

"We must all see to it that our ability to serve the Congress... is not compromised by even the appearance that we have our own agenda as an agency; that one or more of our analysts might be seen as so set in their personal views that they are no longer to be trusted to provide objective research and analysis; or that some have developed a reputation for supporting a position on an issue to the extent that CRS is rendered 'suspect' to those on the other side," wrote CRS Director Daniel P. Mulhollan in a January 23, 2004 Director's Statement:

That statement set off alarm bells among CRS analysts.

"No one disputes that our work must be non-partisan," wrote Louis Fisher in a reply to Director Mulhollan at the time. "But if the front office puts the emphasis on neutrality, balance, and even-handedness, there is little room for careful, expert analysis."

"Most of the criticism of our work that I am familiar with, from CRS staff and Congress, is that our reports are too diffuse and rambling, without theme, direction, or conclusion. If lawmakers merely want background material to give them a starting point, a descriptive CRS product can be helpful. For deeper and more thoughtful analysis, Congress may decide it has to go elsewhere," Fisher wrote.

See his January 31, 2004 memo on CRS Standards for Analysis here:

The uncertain premise of the dispute is that Congress desires deep and thoughtful analysis. What complicates matters further is that in many cases, as they say on the Comedy Channel, "the facts are biased" against the Bush Administration.

See also "Hoekstra attacks CRS 'bias' on spy program" by Shaun Waterman, United Press International, February 9.


The Central Intelligence Agency continues to make a mockery of its legal obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and the national security classification system.

The Project on Government Oversight recently asked the CIA to undertake a declassification review of the December 2002 Iraqi declaration on weapons of mass destruction that was presented to the United Nations Security Council.

Incredibly, CIA official Scott Koch rejected the request by claiming that "the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request."

See "We Know That You Know" on the POGO blog:

A copy of the Table of Contents from the 12,000 page Iraqi declaration, which plainly does exist, was obtained by Secrecy News and may be found here:


Navy personnel are forbidden to disclose or even discuss the presence or absence of nuclear weapons aboard any U.S. Navy vessel, according to a new Navy Instruction.

"Military members and civilian employees of the Department of the Navy shall not reveal, purport to reveal, or cause to be revealed any information, rumor, or speculation with respect to the presence or absence of nuclear weapons or components on board any specific ship, station or aircraft, either on their own initiative or in response, direct or indirect, to any inquiry."

See OPNAV Instruction 5721.1F, "Release of Information on Nuclear Weapons and on Nuclear Capabilities of U.S. Forces," February 3:

The new Instruction was first spotted by Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists.

See his paper "The Neither Confirm Nor Deny Policy: Nuclear Diplomacy at Work," February 2006:


The Logan Act, which became law in 1799, generally prohibits U.S. citizens from engaging in freelance diplomacy with foreign governments.

The Act is the subject of a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

"Although it appears that there has never been a prosecution under the Logan Act, there have been several judicial references to it, indicating that the Act has not been forgotten and that it is at least a potential point of challenge ... against anyone who without authority allegedly interferes in the foreign relations of the United States."

See "Conducting Foreign Relations Without Authority: The Logan Act," February 1, 2006:


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

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