from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 79
August 7, 2008

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When a military judge ruled last month that Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, could be tried for war crimes, the first footnote in his July 14 opinion was to a Congressional Research Service report. (Hamdan was convicted yesterday for material support of terrorism.)

But Military Judge Keith J. Allred, lacking an official source for the CRS analysis by Jennifer K. Elsea (with which he ultimately differed), provided a link instead to a copy of the document on the Federation of American Scientists web site. The ruling is here (see footnote 1 on page 3):

By doing so, the Judge simultaneously highlighted the centrality of such CRS analyses to public discourse and the strange fact that these official documents are still not approved for direct release to the public.

Perhaps he also implicitly affirmed that FAS and other public interest publishers of CRS collections are helping to compensate for that continuing policy defect by providing the online access to CRS reports that Congress has denied.


Noteworthy new reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

"The U.S. Secret Service: An Examination and Analysis of Its Evolving Missions," July 31, 2008:

"Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure Sector," updated July 28, 2008:

"FY2009 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Policy Issues," July 21, 2008:

"Veterans Medical Care: FY2009 Appropriations," July 29, 2008:

"Annual Appropriations Acts: Consideration During Lame-Duck Sessions," July 25, 2008:

ISLAMIC FINANCE, AND MORE FROM CRS Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News include these.

"Islamic Finance: Overview and Policy Concerns," July 29, 2008:

"Presidential Advisers' Testimony Before Congressional Committees: An Overview," updated July 16, 2008:

"China's Foreign Policy: What Does It Mean for U.S. Global Interests?," July 18, 2008:

"Navy DDG-1000 Destroyer Program: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress," updated July 15, 2008:

"A Parliamentary-Style Question Period: Proposals and Issues for Congress," July 29, 2008:

RETROACTIVE IMMUNITY, AND MORE FROM CRS Additional reports from the Congressional Research Service that are newly available online include these:

"Department of Defense Fuel Costs in Iraq," July 23, 2008:

"The Global Nuclear Detection Architecture: Issues for Congress," July 16, 2008:

"Foreign Science and Engineering Presence in U.S. Institutions and the Labor Force," updated July 23, 2008:

"Intelligence Reform at the Department of Energy: Policy Issues and Organizational Alternatives," July 28, 2008:

"Retroactive Immunity Provided by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008," July 25, 2008:

As useful as some CRS reports are, they are rarely if ever the last word on any given subject. The new CRS report on retroactive immunity and the FISA Amendments Act, for example, does not encompass the challenging constitutional questions discussed by Glenn Greenwald in this ACLU blog entry:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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