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Project on Government Oversight
 

 

 

 

Manager Censors Analyst at Congressional Research Service

January 25, 2006 

 

In a growing culture of caution and fear of dissent, a Congressional research agency has warned a senior analyst to avoid describing his research findings. The analyst specializes in separation of powers issues for the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and has frequently authored reports which encourage the Congress to assert its Constitutional oversight authority over the Executive Branch.

The analyst was criticized over a report and comments he made concerning the plight of national security whistleblowers. "It is undeniable that unprecedented numbers of government whistleblowers face retaliation with no adequate protections. We are stunned that the Congress is offended to hear the truth about its failure to help whistleblowers and are even punishing their own seasoned researchers for talking about it," said Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

Today's Washington Times attacks the author of another controversial report which found that the National Security Agency's domestic spying program was illegal. The article criticizes the CRS staff member for making political donations to Democrats. In recent months, POGO has heard that phone calls and letters from Republican Members of Congress to the CRS have created a chilling effect on the agency.

A January 18, 2006 memo from Louis Fisher, a Senior Specialist in Separation of Powers, describes a culture of fear and retaliation for CRS staff. Fisher states that "Congressional research arms cannot function if they fear criticism. Disagreement--strong disagreement--is a natural condition on Capitol Hill." Fisher has been with the CRS for three decades. According the memo, Fisher's supervisor wrote: "Care must be taken to avoid compromising the Service's mission by providing the impression that we as an agency, or the analyst as an individual, have taken a position on an issue before the Congress, or that we are not impartial and objective when researching those issues. Unfortunately, the comments attributed to you in this article clearly leave the impression with the reader that CRS has taken a position on this issue." The supervisor took issue with Fisher's comments in a Government Executive article.

In the memo, Fisher responds to the criticism: "What position? What issue? What are we talking about? In the article I was quoted as saying that agency managers can abuse their powers when punishing whistleblowers and are seldom held to account. That is the record. No one who follows this area would question that." Whistleblower and open government advocates across the political spectrum have expressed concern about this problem, particularly since the creation of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (http://www.nswbc.org). Recently, conservative organizations including Americans for Tax Reform and the American Conservative Union wrote to House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis expressing concern that whistleblower legislation did not go far enough in protecting national security employees (click here).  


Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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