USTR Refuses To Release Congressional Research Service Study On Legality Of ACTA

from the why-is-this-kept-secret? dept

We've talked about how ridiculous it is that the government keeps Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports secret. The organization, which is widely respected and tends to do thorough, objective and useful research, technically produces reports that are in the public domain. However, the recipients of those reports (usually members of Congress or other government employees) often don't want to let those documents out for that very reason. If you're pushing for a certain law, and CRS research proves that there are problems with it, you don't want that info to get out. Of course, if we had intellectually honest politicians (stop laughing!), they would not just publish the research, but would actually use it to guide some of their policy making decisions.

Back in October, you may recall that Senator Ron Wyden, one of the very few elected officials to actually understand and to worry about the implications of ACTA, asked the CRS to study ACTA to see how it would impact US law. That report has been delivered to the USTR, and KEI filed a FOIA request to see the document. However, the USTR has refused to provide the document. The USTR really seems to take a "secrecy first, transparency never" view on all things ACTA, doesn't it? It certainly makes you wonder what's in that report, doesn't it?

KEI is now appealing the rejection, claiming that the USTR's explanation for denying the request is simply not supported by the law. The USTR claims that it can't hand out the document, because it belongs to CRS. This is simply incorrect, as KEI noted in its reply. Of course, it's also unclear why Senator Wyden's office doesn't release the document itself, but the feeling there is that he doesn't want to upset the USTR either.
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Filed Under: acta, crs, transparency, ustr

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  1. icon
    vivaelamor (profile), 28 Mar 2011 @ 2:56pm


    "The issue is this. FOIA pertains only to "agency records", i.e., records associated with the executive branch. The CRS is not an agency, but a part of the Copyright Office, which in turn is a part of the legislative branch."

    I don't think it effects your point, but I'm not sure what you've said here is accurate. As far as I can tell, the CRS is part of the Library of Congress and has no direct link to the Copyright Office, although that is also part of the LoC. More relevant is the fact that if it were part of the Copyright Office then it would likely be subject to the FOIA, as the Copyright Office itself is (despite the LOC not being so).

    Those points of detail aside, the argument of the KEI is that the CRS does not retain control of the document: "A record produced by Congress and later acquired by the agency qualifies as an agency record if the agency controls it. U.S. Dept. of Justice v. Tax Analysts, 492 U.S. 136, 144 (1989)". If that is the case then whether the CRS is subject to the FOIA would be irrelevant anyway.

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