Government as Secretive as Ever

The Congressional Research Service is the respected in-house think tank for lawmakers, who are encouraged to request research on areas of public policy that range from environmental protection to immigration.

CRS, as it’s known, employs more than 400 analysts who are experts in their fields, “providing Congress with the vital analytical support it needs to address the most complex public policy issues facing the nation,” its Web site says.

But this support, at a cost of $100 million a year to taxpayers, also is confidential. 

The research is never made public unless a member of Congress releases it, to allow lawmakers to pursue potentially controversial issues without fear of political push-back. 

The reports are published on a site, CRS.gov, which is not publicly accessible.

This confidentiality underscored in a new internal memo sent to CRS staff instructing them to be more secretive is now under attack by a coalition of librarians, open-government advocates and advocates against wasteful spending, who are pressing for an end to what they call excessive secrecy in Congress’s research arm.

“We believe Congress should provide a central online source for timely public access to CRS reports,” a group of retired and former research service employees and dozens of open government groups wrote last week in a letter to Congressional leaders. 

“That would place all members of the public on an equal footing to one another with respect to access.”
The group said some confidential support to members of Congress should continue through briefings and memos. 

But the advocates said the public is denied access to research that, while available to congressional staff, lobbyists and some journalists, through leaks “with no expectation of confidentiality,” never makes it to the public.       Read more:

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