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Which one of these is not like the other? Congressional Research Service and Transparency

not confidential file folder“A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.”Those were the words of James Madison in 1822, repeated in a letter dated February 25 to Librarian of Congress James Billington. The letter was signed by 38 organizations including the American Library Association, Center for Democracy and Technology, Federation of American Scientists, Sunlight Foundation, and so on.

These groups are calling for the librarian of all librarians, overseeing the entirety of the Library of Congress, to appoint a new director of the Congressional Research Service “who will work with Congress to provide online free public access to the unclassified, non-confidential, taxpayer-funded reports produced by CRS.”

The Congressional Research Service is an interesting beast. You can think of it like Congress’ pocket think-tank. Members ask questions and CRS responds with short summaries of issues, longer exploratory reports, and full-fledged analytical pieces. In addition to the reports, CRS provides help through on-line resources, confidential legal and policy analysis to individual members, seminars and briefings, even telephone consultations.

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