from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 99
December 14, 2009
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
CRS: "NOT A HAPPY PLACE"
The Congressional Research Service, which performs policy research and analysis for Congress, is "not a happy place these days," said a CRS staffer.
The staffer was referring to the fact that a respected CRS division chief, Morris Davis, had been abruptly fired from his position for publicly expressing some of his private opinions. ("CRS Fires a Division Chief," Secrecy News, December 4, 2009). CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan, the man who fired Mr. Davis (it's Colonel Davis, actually), evidently believes that CRS employees must have no independent public persona and must not express private opinions in public, even when such opinions are unrelated to their work at CRS, as in Davis' case. In short, CRS employees are expected to surrender their First Amendment rights. Who could be happy with that?
The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up Col. Davis' cause and in a December 4 letter, ACLU attorneys Aden Fine and Jameel Jaffer asked the Library of Congress (CRS' parent organization) to reconsider its position by today, or else risk litigation seeking Davis' reinstatement. But it takes a special kind of integrity to admit error and to change course, and that is not the anticipated scenario in this case.
"In spite of all that, I still believe we do excellent research," the CRS staffer told Secrecy News. Yet that research is still not made directly accessible to the public.
In the 2010 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, Congress once again mandated that "no part of [the CRS budget] may be used to pay any salary or expense" to make CRS research reports available to the public without prior authorization. This was obviously intended to block direct public access to CRS reports. But it could also be read more satisfactorily to permit CRS employees to freely distribute CRS reports as long as they incur no additional expense when doing so.
Some notable new CRS reports obtained by Secrecy News include the following.
"Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping," updated December 3, 2009:
"U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 2001-2008," December 2, 2009:
"War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Military Operations, and Issues for Congress," December 3, 2009:
"The German Economy and U.S.-German Economic Relations," November 30, 2009:
"Sexual Violence in African Conflicts," November 25, 2009:
"Traumatic Brain Injury: Care and Treatment of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans," November 25, 2009:
"Key Issues in Derivatives Reform," December 1, 2009:
"U.S. Aerospace Manufacturing: Industry Overview and Prospects," December 3, 2009:
"High Speed Rail (HSR) in the United States," December 8, 2009:
CONFRONTING CONTROLLED UNCLASSIFIED INFO
The Obama Administration is expected to provide some new insight this week into its emerging policy on "controlled unclassified information" (CUI), referring to unclassified information that is withheld from disclosure for reasons of law or regulation.
Because of the indiscriminate use of such controls, information is often withheld unnecessarily from the public and information sharing within the government is often needlessly obstructed.
In a neat illustration of the undisciplined use of information controls, the Washington Times reported last week that even though some U.S. Capitol Police documents that were marked "law enforcement sensitive" were inadvertently disclosed, this did not pose any threat to public safety. That's because the use of the control marking was "a standard practice," according to Police officials, rather than a reliable indication that the documents were actually sensitive.
Sgt. Kimberly Schneider of the Capitol Police explained that the "law enforcement sensitive" marking "does not necessarily indicate that the information contained there is such." See "Capitol Police Papers Found on Street" by Jim McElhatton, Washington Times, December 7, 2009:
Last August 25, an interagency task force transmitted a report to President Obama that presented recommendations for limiting the use of controls on unclassified information. The White House is expected to release that report this week, though the issuance of a new CUI policy is still likely to be some months away.
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
See also "Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works" by Steven Aftergood, Yale Law and Policy Review, vol. 27, no. 2, Spring 2009:
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