A Reporter’s Privilege Workaround, and More from CRS

10.22.15 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Privilege Against Self-Incrimination Supplements Journalist Privilege, CRS Legal Sidebar, October 20, 2015

Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee, October 19, 2015

Supreme Court Appointment Process: Consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, October 19, 2015

Supreme Court Appointment Process: Senate Debate and Confirmation Vote, October 19, 2015

Points of Order in the Congressional Budget Process, updated October 20, 2015

Creating a Federal Advisory Committee in the Executive Branch, October 19, 2015

Legislative Branch Agency Appointments: History, Processes, and Recent Actions, updated October 19, 2015

Federal Aid for Reconstruction of Houses of Worship: A Legal Analysis, October 19, 2015

Sanctuary Jurisdictions and Criminal Aliens: In Brief, October 20, 2015

Elections in Haiti, CRS Insight, October 20, 2015

Argentina’s 2015 Presidential Election, CRS Insight, October 20, 2015

U.S.-Mexico Security Cooperation Following “El Chapo” Guzmán’s Escape, CRS Insights, updated October 20, 2015

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’s Compliance with International Obligations, updated October 19, 2015

U.S. Foreign Assistance to the Middle East: Historical Background, Recent Trends, and the FY2016 Request, October 19, 2015

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The ready availability of most CRS reports online in recent years has demonstrated at least a couple of things.

First, they are actually useful.  And they are used — by reporters, researchers and members of the general public. Every day, news stories and editorials cite to CRS publications as authoritative sources of non-partisan information.

Second, their broad public dissemination online has generated no adverse effects on CRS as an institution. In particular, it has not interfered with analysts’ productivity or candor, or with the conduct of congressional operations.

But authorized disclosure of CRS reports would be greatly preferable to the existing practice of unauthorized disclosure. The unauthorized route involves time-consuming collection and processing activity by people whose efforts could perhaps be applied more productively in other ways. And while the public archive of current CRS reports is probably more than 80% complete, it is not 100% complete.

A new initiative to gain authorized public access to CRS reports is now getting some traction. The issue is being addressed today on Capitol Hill at a meeting of the Congressional Transparency Caucus.

Numerous former CRS experts and analysts have written to congressional leaders to express their support for public access.

And a bipartisan resolution in favor of public access has been introduced in the House by Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ).

It may yet happen.