Pluto Flyby Mission Powered by Plutonium

News of the Earth these days is such that one welcomes news from elsewhere, especially when it concerns a prospect as spectacular as the impending flyby of Pluto by the NASA spacecraft New Horizons that will take place on July 14. In reality, of course, New Horizons also represents news from Earth, having been built by humans and launched from Cape Canaveral in January 2006. Moreover, the New Horizons probe is not simply a technological […]

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Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Lessons Learned and Issues for Congress, updated July 2, 2015 Acquisition Reform in House- and Senate-Passed Versions of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1735), July 2, 2015 Iran’s Foreign Policy, updated June 30, 2015 Iran: Efforts to Achieve a Nuclear Accord, updated July 1, 2015 Puerto Rico’s Current Fiscal Challenges: In Brief, June 30, 2015 Burma’s […]

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Criminal Justice Reform, and More from CRS

“The number of people incarcerated in the United States has increased dramatically over the past three decades,” a new report from the Congressional Research Service observes, from around 419,000 inmates in 1983 to about 1.5 million inmates in 2013. “The incarceration rate increased from 179 per 100,000 people in 1983 to 478 per 100,000 in 2013,” generating mounting concerns about the economic, social and other consequences of the criminal justice system. At this point, CRS […]

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Contrasting Views on Public Release of CRS Reports

Last year, the Congressional Research Service produced more than 1,000 new reports and more than 2,500 updates of previous reports for the use of Congress, according to the latest CRS annual report. Those figures do not include “approximately 62,000 requests for custom analysis and research” for individual members or Committees. “For all public policy issues, Congress could rely on the authoritative, objective, timely, and confidential support that CRS offered at each stage of the legislative […]

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Insider Threat Program Advances, Slowly

The Department of Defense recently demonstrated the “Continuous Evaluation” of approximately 100,000 cleared military, civilian and contractor personnel, in order to validate their eligibility for access to classified information on an ongoing basis. Continuous Evaluation (CE) refers to the automated monitoring of government and commercial databases for signs of criminal behavior, irregular financial activity, or other “triggers” that could lead to suspension of a security clearance. CE is a central feature of the emerging Insider […]

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Public Mass Shooting a Persistent Threat (CRS)

Mass killings of the sort that took place yesterday in Charleston, South Carolina are a distressingly frequent occurrence. There were 78 public mass shootings in the United States between 1983 and 2013, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. “According to CRS estimates, over the last three decades public mass shootings have claimed 547 lives and led to an additional 476 injured victims,” the report said. Of course, gun violence in America is […]

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Public Access to CRS Reports, Revisited

“Congressional Research Belongs to the Public,” declared a New York Times editorial today, and it is “absurd” that Congress would place any obstacles in the way of public access to Congressional Research Service reports, which provide impartial analyses of current policy issues. Yet such obstacles continue to exist, and most CRS reports are not publicly disclosed by Congress. A measure to require the online publication of non-confidential CRS products (H.Res. 34) was introduced in the […]

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House Adopts Intel Bill, Senate Affirms Torture Ban

The House of Representatives yesterday approved its version of the FY 2016 intelligence authorization act (HR 2596). The bill includes “several” new reporting requirements intended “to enhance Congress’ role in and understanding of the classification process,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). One of these requirements is for a report to Congress noting each occasion in the past 5 years in which non-compartmented intelligence reporting has been disseminated through a (more restrictive) compartmented channel. The bill […]

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House Intelligence Bill Would Limit PCLOB Oversight

Updated below The House Intelligence Committee inserted language in the pending intelligence authorization bill that would bar access by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) to classified information pertaining to covert action. “Nothing in the statute authorizing the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board should be construed to allow that Board to gain access to information the executive branch deems to be related to covert action,” according to the new Committee report on […]

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Reform of Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following. Stored Communications Act: Reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), May 19, 2015 United Nations Reform: Background and Issues for Congress, updated May 15, 2015 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Functions and Funding, May 15, 2015 In-Country Refugee Processing: In Brief, May 7, 2015 Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, updated June 2, 2015 Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class […]

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