More Turmoil at the Congressional Research Service
A long-simmering dispute over the role and character of the Congressional Research Service now threatens to boil over in the form of a clash between CRS management and CRS analyst Louis Fisher.
Fisher, a specialist in American government and separation of powers issues, is one of the superstars of the CRS, whose work is widely cited and universally respected by his academic colleagues.
He “is a national treasure, the foremost expert on the constitutional law of the presidency,” wrote George C. Edwards III, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University in a letter to the Librarian of Congress last week. He “is widely regarded as the nation’s preeminent expert on the institutional powers of Congress and the presidency” according to Cornell W. Clayton of Washington State University.
Now Fisher, age 71, is in trouble at CRS for having expressed views critical of Bush Administration policy.
See “Expert on Congress’s Power Claims He Was Muzzled for Faulting Bush” by Yochi Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, February 9.
The roots of the dispute go back several years and derive from an unresolved disagreement about the proper function of the CRS, and the nature of analytical objectivity.
“We must all see to it that our ability to serve the Congress… is not compromised by even the appearance that we have our own agenda as an agency; that one or more of our analysts might be seen as so set in their personal views that they are no longer to be trusted to provide objective research and analysis; or that some have developed a reputation for supporting a position on an issue to the extent that CRS is rendered ‘suspect’ to those on the other side,” wrote CRS Director Daniel P. Mulhollan in a January 23, 2004 Director’s Statement.
That statement set off alarm bells among CRS analysts.
“No one disputes that our work must be non-partisan,” wrote Louis Fisher in a reply to Director Mulhollan at the time. “But if the front office puts the emphasis on neutrality, balance, and even-handedness, there is little room for careful, expert analysis.”
“Most of the criticism of our work that I am familiar with, from CRS staff and Congress, is that our reports are too diffuse and rambling, without theme, direction, or conclusion. If lawmakers merely want background material to give them a starting point, a descriptive CRS product can be helpful. For deeper and more thoughtful analysis, Congress may decide it has to go elsewhere,” Fisher wrote in a January 31, 2004 memo on CRS Standards for Analysis.
The uncertain premise of the dispute is that Congress desires deep and thoughtful analysis. What complicates matters further is that in many cases, as they say on the Comedy Channel, “the facts are biased” against the Bush Administration.
See also “Hoekstra attacks CRS ‘bias’ on spy program” by Shaun Waterman, United Press International, February 9.
The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons, and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]
On 14 April 2023, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence released a short video of a Su-25 pilot explaining his new role in delivering “special [nuclear] munitions” following his training in Russia. The features seen in the video, as well as several other open-source clues, suggest that Lida Air Base––located only 40 kilometers from the Lithuanian border and the […]
A photo in a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) student briefing from 2022 shows four people inspecting what appears to be a damaged B61 nuclear bomb.
In early-February 2023, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) had informed Congress that China now has more launchers for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) than the United States. The report is the latest in a serious of revelations over the past four years about China’s growing nuclear weapons arsenal and the deepening […]