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Wikileaks posts what our Congresspeople knew and when they knew it

From the Wikileaks’ post:

Wikileaks has released nearly a billion dollars worth of quasi-secret reports commissioned by the United States Congress.

The 6,780 reports, current as of this month, comprise over 127,000 pages of material on some of the most contentious issues in the nation, from the U.S. relationship with Israel to abortion legislation. Nearly 2,300 of the reports were updated in the last 12 months, while the oldest report goes back to 1990. The release represents the total output of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) electronically available to Congressional offices. The CRS is Congress’s analytical agency and has a budget in excess of $100M per year.

Open government lawmakers such as Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vermont) have fought for years make the reports public, with bills being introduced–and rejected–almost every year since 1998. The CRS, as a branch of Congress, is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

CRS reports are highly regarded as non-partisan, in-depth, and timely. The reports top the list of the “10 Most-Wanted Government Documents” compiled by the Washington based Center for Democracy and Technology. The Federation of American Scientists, in pushing for the reports to be made public, stated that the “CRS is Congress’ Brain and it’s useful for the public to be plugged into it,”. While Wired magazine called their concealment “The biggest Congressional scandal of the digital age”.

A mere scan of the list of titles is fascinating. For example, here’s what our representatives have been told about the number of civilian casualties in Iraq. Here’s 1998’s Sono Bono Copyright Act explained in terms our legislators could understand. Here are the legal basics of the Elian Gonzales case. Here is the background our reps got on Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza.

This stuff looks even-handed and informative. And, had it been made public at the time, not only would we citizens have been educated, we could have enhanced, disputed, and corrected oversights and biases.

Not to mention the effect these might have had as “social objects.” If they had been released publicly when they were given to Congress, they might have shaped public debate around dispassionate starting points. [Tags: ]

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