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 D. 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 P. 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’s 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’s cause and in a December 4 letter (pdf), ACLU attorneys Aden J. Fine and Jameel Jaffer asked the Library of Congress (CRS’s parent organization) to reconsider its position by today, or else risk litigation seeking Davis’s 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.

(Update: As expected, the Library of Congress refused to reconsider its position, setting the stage for a lawsuit. See the ACLU news release and the Library response here.)

“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 (all pdf).

“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.

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