from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2016, Issue No. 58
July 13, 2016
Secrecy News Blog: http://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/
THE LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA AND THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
The great Library of Alexandria was renowned in antiquity as a repository of all accessible knowledge that aimed "to collect, if possible, all the books in the world" (according to the 2nd century BCE Letter of Aristeas). Until its destruction, perhaps at the hands of Julius Caesar, the Library reflected and helped to generate a transforming wave of inquiry and enlightenment throughout the ancient world.
Our own Library of Congress is today the largest library in the world and, at least notionally, it has comparably grand ambitions.
Its declared mission is "to develop qualitatively the Library's universal collections, which document the history and further the creativity of the American people and which record and contribute to the advancement of civilization and knowledge throughout the world, and to acquire, organize, provide access to, maintain, secure, and preserve these collections."
Yet the Library has been allowed to languish behind rapid changes in information technology and knowledge management.
Google Books, for example, which provides online access to millions of volumes in dozens of languages, has leapfrogged over the Library of Congress in significant respects.
The Library has the institutional potential to match and exceed that achievement, given the requisite resources and leadership, but it is in a precarious state.
"The next Librarian of Congress will lead an organization that has really had significant physical and technological limitations and is struggling to adapt to a new century," said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) at the recent confirmation hearing for Dr. Carla D. Hayden to be the Librarian of Congress. "Due to the historic shortage of storage space, the library has millions of items stored improperly and needs to find a better way to store them. There is risk of degradation of some of the collection."
"In addition, recent information technology management challenges have raised questions about the Library's ability to serve future generations as more and more collections need to be digitally collected, preserved and made available to the public," he said.
Asked her views about allowing public access to reports of the Congressional Research Service, which is a component of the Library of Congress, Dr. Hayden said this was a decision for Congress to make.
"The extent to which CRS products are viewed, shared, used, or disseminated beyond the legislative branch are questions beyond the purview and mission of CRS. Ultimately, the questions are legislative. As Congress seeks to answer them, and if I am confirmed, I intend to play a constructive role in the process," she said.
RUSSIA'S FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE EXPANDS
The headquarters complex of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) of the Russian Federation has expanded dramatically over the past decade, a review of open source imagery reveals.
Since 2007, several large new buildings have been added to SVR headquarters, increasing its floor space by a factor of two or more. Nearby parking capacity appears to have quadrupled, more or less.
The compilation of open source imagery was prepared by Allen Thomson. See Expansion of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service HQ (SVR; Former KGB First Main Directorate) Between 2007 and 2016, as of July 11, 2016.
Whether the expansion of SVR headquarters corresponds to changes in the Service's mission, organizational structure or budget could not immediately be learned.
Russian journalist and author Andrei Soldatov, who runs the Agentura.ru website on Russian security services, noted that the expansion "coincides with the appointment of the current SVR director, Mikhail Fradkov, in 2007." He recalled that when President Putin introduced Fradkov to Service personnel, he said that the SVR should endeavor to help Russian corporations abroad, perhaps indicating a new mission emphasis.
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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