Selected CRS Reports

02.20.07 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Some recently updated reports of the Congressional Research Service that are not readily available in the public domain include the following (all pdf).

“U.S. Foreign Aid to East and South Asia: Selected Recipients,” updated January 3, 2007.

“NATO’s Prague Capabilities Commitment,” updated January 24, 2007.

“Ballistic Missile Defense: Historical Overview,” updated January 5, 2007.

“Islamic Religious Schools, Madrasas: Background,” updated January 23, 2007.

“The Islamic Traditions of Wahhabism and Salafiyya,” updated January 17, 2007.

Though the general public is not permitted access to the congressional database of CRS reports online, these same reports can be purchased from a private vendor for about $4000 per year, the Washington Post noted yesterday.

“How I get them is my trade secret . . . but I get them all,” said Walt Seager, who digs up the reports for Gallery Watch, a legislative tracking service.

See “Information, Please” by Elizabeth Williamson, Washington Post, February 19.

In fact, however, Gallery Watch only gets those reports that are for common use by all Congressional offices. It does not provide the significant fraction of reports that are performed for the use of an individual Member. For the same reason, the claim by Gallery Watch that its reports provide some kind of advance insight into the Congressional agenda is exaggerated. Most of the reports it offers are updates of existing publications, along with others that are mostly undertaken at the initiative of CRS itself, not Members of Congress.

What is true is that current congressional policy on CRS reports promotes a kind of checkbook democracy, in which corporations, other large institutions and wealthy individuals have exclusive or preferred access to CRS products, while the general public is left to fend for itself.