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Censorship of federal research and support functions

  #

Part 3

Shifting from attacks upon the scientific base, many of those in the scientific community at large, this note addresses:

(2) Attacks upon federal research and support functions

Demotion of Lawrence Greenfeld, director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is a low-profile agency within DoJ, producing reports "on issues like crime patterns, drug use, police tactics and prison populations and is widely cited by law enforcement officials, policy makers, social scientists and the news media. Located in an office separate from the Justice Department, it strives to be largely independent to avoid any taint of political influence," yet BJS statisticians have noted worsening political pressure, one stating that "in this administration, those tensions have been even greater, and the struggles have been harder" while another said that "We've seen a desire for more control over B.J.S. from the powers that be…"

On the eve of announcing results of a "major study on traffic stops and racial profiling":

Political supervisors within the Office of Justice Programs ordered Mr. Greenfeld to delete certain references to the disparities [as to how racial groups were treated once they were stopped by the police] from a news release that was drafted to announce the findings, according to more than a half-dozen Justice Department officials with knowledge of the situation… Mr. Greenfeld refused to delete the racial references, arguing to his supervisors that the omissions would make the public announcement incomplete and misleading. Instead, the Justice Department opted not to issue a news release on the findings and posted the report online. Some statisticians said that decision all but assured the report would get lost amid the avalanche of studies issued by the government. A computer search of news articles found no mentions of the study.

Then acting assistant attorney general, Tracy A. Henke, overseeing the BJS, personally sought to delete the notations to "higher rates of searches and use of force for blacks and Hispanics [crossing them] out by hand, with a notation in the margin that read, "Do we need this?" A note affixed to the edited draft, which the officials said was written by Ms. Henke, read "Make the changes," and it was signed "Tracy."

Amid the debate over the traffic stop study, Mr. Greenfeld was called to the office of Robert D. McCallum Jr., then the third-ranking Justice Department official, and questioned about his handling of the matter, people involved in the episode said. Some weeks later, he was called to the White House, where personnel officials told him he was being replaced as director and was urged to resign, six months before he was scheduled to retire with full pension benefits… After Mr. Greenfeld invoked his right as a former senior executive to move to a lesser position, the administration agreed to allow him to seek another job…

Greenfield has moved to a lesser position while Henke was nominated "to a senior position at the Department of Homeland Security." Many BJS statisticians say that "their independence in analyzing important law enforcement data has been compromised."

Multiple attacks upon the Congressional Research Service

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a "legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress" that is the "public policy research arm." of the US Congress. Congress created CRS in 1914 so as to have "its own source of nonpartisan, objective analysis and research on all legislative issues":

CRS staff comprises nationally recognized experts in a range of issues and disciplines, including law, economics, foreign affairs, public administration, the information, social, political sciences, natural sciences. The breadth and depth of this expertise enables CRS staff to come together quickly to provide integrated analyses of complex issues that span multiple legislative and program areas.

CRS comprises five interdisciplinary research divisions: American Law; Domestic Social Policy; Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade; Government and Finance; and Resources, Science and Industry. The Knowledge Services Group provides "research support services to CRS analysts and attorneys in providing authoritative and reliable information research and policy analysis to the Congress."

CRS amounts to an in-house consultancy and research group that is considered so reliable and nonpartisan that its researchers are often called upon by various protagonists to research and testify on issues of interest to a particular faction. Sad to say that State places Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports and Issue Briefs under its Foreign Press Centers

Muzzling of Louis Fisher (also here), specialist in separation of powers

Fisher is one of the doyens of the CRS research community, a unrivaled specialist in separation of powers and US government, "the foremost expert on the constitutional law of the presidency." He is one of those remarkable individuals whose analysis is so refined that he is tasked by opponents over a given subject, but things have not gone well in questioning administration policies. While his books include Presidential War Power, Nazi Saboteurs on Trial: A Military Tribunal and American Law, Constitutional Conflicts Between Congress and the President, and Religious Liberty in America, Louis wrote Deciding on war against Iraq: institutional failures for Political Science Quarterly in 2003.

Deciding on war against Iraq was not revolutionary given current and subsequent writings on OIF, but it was supremely balanced in analysis. From the PSC abstract:

Louis Fisher analyzes the performance of U.S. political institutions in authorizing the war against Iraq in October 2002. He finds that the Bush administration failed to provide correct information to Congress to justify the war and relied on tenuous claims that were discredited on many occasions. He also argues that Congress failed in its institutional duties both by voting on the Iraq resolution without sufficient evidence and by drafting the legislation in such a way that it left the power to initiate war in the hands of the President, exactly what the Framers had tried to prevent.

Unfortunately that tame analysis drew a shot-across-the-bow in the form of a Director's Statement from CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan titled Outside Activities: Preserving Objectivity and Non-Partisanship. Readers can judge for themselves, but this analysis read it as a 'Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt' memo designed to make CRS analysts more circumspect in their work in and out of government. (Fisher can write outside of government with a disclaimer that the text is his personal view.)

 In what is one of the best notes that I have ever read on the purpose and mission of an investigative support arm, Louis responded to Mulhollan with CRS Standards for Analysis. I recommend it unreservedly.

I sympathize with Fisher when he says "if the front office puts the emphasis on neutrality, balance, and even-handedness, there is little room for careful, expert analysis." Our clients want an informed answer; they want us to take a position. They do not want bland, safe verbiage that strips the client of the ability to act. In the condition that Fisher and fellow analysts finds themselves they can never be certain when too pointed an argument, even if it is true, will draw unspecified penalties.

Matters appeared to float along in a Mexican standoff until Fisher was quoted in a 2006 GovExec article, Report finds government whistleblowers lack adequate protections. Having written National Security Whistleblowers for CRS, Fisher was the go-to guy for the topic. Fisher was quoted as saying that "he believes that things have become worse for whistleblowers since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because Congress and the courts have overly deferred to the executive branch when it comes to punishing whistleblowers or suppressing information. "I get the picture that people can do really awful things inside agencies and they never pay any price at all, and that's really scary."

That was enough to draw a 13 January nastygram for CRS Assistant Director, Robert Dilger, that while I do not have a copy, seems over the top from the parts Fisher cites in his 18 January letter response to Mulhollan. Again, Fisher is worth reading. GovExec says that, "Now both sides are keeping mum about what happens next." At 71, Fisher has 36 years in service, and I do not see him backing down.

Mau-mauing other analysts at CRS

US political speech has adopted the verb mau-mau as "to attack or denounce vociferously, especially so as to intimidate." I agree with Steven Aftergood's use of the term in describing assaults on CRS when their analyses disagree with administration desires. It is my opinion that pressure is placed upon CRS precisely because of the quality of their work and the weight that it carries.

Legislative Attorneys, Elizabeth Bazan and Jennifer Elsea, authored Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Electronic Surveillance to Gather Foreign Intelligence Information on 5 January, while Alfred Cumming, Specialist in Intelligence and National Security, authored Statutory Procedures Under Which Congress Is To Be Informed of U.S. Intelligence Activities, Including Covert Actions on 18 January.

The "broad agreement" over the former article stating that the NSA surveillance operation "does not seem to be as well-grounded" as the administration professes while the latter stating that the decision to restrict congressional notification to eight Congressional members as is done in the case of covert actions "would appear to be inconsistent with the law" given that the NSA surveillance effort was not a legally designated "covert action" drew significant backlash from administration backers, notably chairman of the House Permanent Select on Intelligence, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich).

Hoekstra "did not merely suggest that the CRS might be wrong; he claimed that the agency was actually biased against Bush Administration policy":

[Hoekstra] said both reports were based on speculation about the program, and "clearly advocated and supported a specific position with respect to the legal issues" raised by it. In two blistering letters to the service's director, Hoekstra complained about an analysis of the administration's legal argument for the president's authority to conduct the program; and about a subsequent report on the legality of the notification process the administration used in briefing Congress about it.

The reports questioned the legal reasoning the administration has employed to justify both the program and the way that only a handful of senior lawmakers from both parties were briefed on it. Both were "flawed and obviously incomplete ... seemingly intended to advocate the erroneous conclusion that the president did not comply with the relevant law," wrote Hoekstra, who said Tuesday he had received no response as yet.

Hoekstra had to be corrected by his own party, that it was Hoekstra "who misunderstood and misrepresented the requirements of the law":

Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) put the matter plainly at a February 6 Senate hearing on the NSA surveillance program, explaining that the statute which permits limited notification to eight members of Congress is relevant only to covert actions, and not to the NSA program.

"When you look at that section [50 USC 413(b)], the only thing this references as far as what this Group of Eight does is receive reports in regard to covert action. So that's really all it is. It does not cover a situation like we're talking about here at all," Sen. DeWine said

One still has to sympathize with CRS researchers who must be nearly shell-shocked.

Nick Turse has a running series (now up to three) of what he calls the "Fallen Legion" of individuals that have fallen prey to bureaucratic conflict. His fallen now number 243, yet his first post in the series was October 2005. Lawrence Greenfeld of the BJS is a fallen in the third. I have scanned the list and quibble with some but find substantive merit with many.

Part 5

Muzzling a Researcher
GovExec Daily Briefing
14 February, 2006
9:13 a.m. ET

Tomgram: Nick Turse on Guerrilla Warfare in Washington
Nick Turse
TomDispatch.com
posted February 12, 2006 at 7:27 pm

More Turmoil at the Congressional Research Service
Posted by Steven Aftergood
 Secrecy News
February 9, 2006 02:49 PM

Expert on Congress's Power Claims He Was Muzzled for Faulting Bush
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
February 9, 2006

Hoekstra attacks CRS 'bias' on spy program
By SHAUN WATERMAN
UPI Homeland and National Security
Feb. 8, 2006

Letter to Daniel P. Mulhollan, Director, CRS from Peter Hoekstra, Chairman, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
REF: Alfred Cumming's memorandum of 18 January, 2006
February 1, 2006

Probable Cause, Reasonable Suspicion, and Reasonableness Standards in the Context of the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
Congressional Research Service
American Law Division
January 30, 2006

Statutory Procedures Under Which Congress Is To Be Informed of U.S. Intelligence Activities, Including Covert Actions
Alfred Cumming
Specialist in Intelligence and National Security
Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division
CRS
January 18, 2006

Letter to Daniel Mulhollan, Director, Congressional Research Service from Louis Fisher, Senior Specialist in Separation of Powers
Ref: Robert Dilger's memo on January 13, 2006, regarding "Comments Appearing in Government Executive"
January 18, 2006

Report finds government whistleblowers lack adequate protections
By Chris Strohm
GovExec
January 10, 2006

Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Electronic Surveillance to Gather Foreign Intelligence Information
Elizabeth B. Bazan and Jennifer K. Elsea
Legislative Attorneys
Congressional Research Service
American Law Division
January 5, 2006

National Security Whistleblowers
Louis Fisher, Senior Specialist in Separation of Powers
Government and Finance Division
CRS RL33215
December 30, 2005

Tomgram: Nick Turse on Bush's Expanding "Fallen Legion"
Nick Turse
TomDispatch.com
posted November 27, 2005 at 5:56 pm

Tomgram: Nick Turse, Casualties of the Bush Administration
Nick Turse
TomDispatch.com
posted October 14, 2005 at 10:02 am

Profiling Report Leads to a Demotion
By ERIC LICHTBLAU
New York Times
August 24, 2005

CRS Standards for Analysis
Louis Fisher
Senior Specialist in Separation of Powers
Letter to CRS Director Daniel P. Mulhollan
REF: Mulhollan's 23 January Director's Statement
January 31, 2004

Outside Activities: Preserving Objectivity and Non-Partisanship
Director's Statement
CRS Director Daniel P. Mulhollan
January 23, 2004

Deciding on war against Iraq: institutional failures
Louis Fisher
Political Science Quarterly
Vol 118, No 3, September, 2003

Gordon Housworth



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