Entry for February 22, 2006

The above image at  www.Drooker.com  by artist Eric Drooker depicts censorship.  It would appear that the House Republicans’  pressure on CSR Director Mulholland which  I wrote about yesterday  may be having an effect.  Look at the example of the CRS ananlyst Lou Fisher,  who wrote a  report, National Security Whistleblowers .   On February 9, Roll Call’s John McArdle reported

One of the top analysts at the Congressional Research Service said that Director Daniel Mullhollan has ordered him to apologize by close of business Friday for writing a memorandum that criticized Congress’ nonpartisan research agency for an “incoherent” policy that advocates neutrality and suppresses the analytical skills of its researchers.

The dust-up started when Fisher commented on his findings from his CSR report for Chris Strohm’s article, “Report finds government whistleblowers lack adequate protections” in the January 10  Government Executive.  Strohm says Fisher told him that since September 11 Congress and the Courts had  deferred too much to the executive branch in  punishing whistleblowers and surpressing 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,” Fisher said. 

According to McArdle, CRS’s supervisor for the Government and Finance Division Robert Dilger rebuked Fisher for talking to Strohn, that it appeared 

to compromise your ability to be perceived as meeting CRS standards of impartiality and objectivity.

Fisher complained to Mulholland in a January memo, 

I have testified before congressional committees about 38 times … I am invited because I have an expert opinion to share. … I am certainly not partisan in my CRS work or in my outside writings. But I have always considered myself free to analyze an issue on the basis of all available information and reach a professional conclusion. That is what other analysts do. … That is what the people I work with on the Hill – Republican and Democrat – expect. Anything short of that would be mere descriptive writing.

Fisher wrote the an increasing push by CRS administrators for “neutrality” in analytical work violages the agency’s core mission. mission.

If we err on the side of caution at every turn, we risk legitimate and much more serious criticism that our products lack analytical rigor, interest, and value.

Fisher made it clear that he knew his outspoken views  could lead to punishment.

I imagine in my status as a Senior Specialist I have few if any rights.  Clearly the leverage is with you and your aides. You can take steps to fire me. … If it comes to that we can go through the process and see what happens.

Fisher sent letters to members of Congress reporting his problems.  Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV),  came to the specialist’s defense.

Lou Fisher is a scholar of integrity and insight,” Byrd said in a release today. “He has assisted me on many occasions. … The Republic needs people who understand the role of the Congress, who share a determination to protect the people’s liberties, and who are unafraid to point out when Congress abdicates that role or when another branch of government tries to steal it away. Quite simply, the Congress needs people like Lou Fisher with the brains and the backbone to help us do our work. I only wish that more people, including some who have sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, shared his passion.

Yochi J. Dreazen’s February 9  Wall Street Journal  article, “Expert on Congress’s Power Claims He Was Muzzled for Faulting Bush” lays out a more complete time line.  According to a February 14 post on the blog MediaWatch ,  Dr. Nancy Kassop  , Chair of the Political Science Department  at SUNY New Paltz, who has written  about Fisher,  is asking folks to write Congress and CRS in support of Fisher.

By the way, the Congressional Research Service does not offer its reports to the public.  OpenCRS.org would like that changed, but until then, it asks folks to request copies of the various reports from their members of Congress in pdf format and upload them to the site.


 
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