Earlier versions of this story misidentified Sen. Joe Lieberman's political affiliation. The text below has been corrected.
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Thousands of Congressional Reports Now Available Online
Often used by lobbyists and industry analysts as indicators of what's next on Capitol Hill, the CRS reports also can be politically explosive. Reports questioning the constitutionality of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program have been seized upon by media outlets and lawmakers alike.
"In one sense, they're afraid of becoming a political agency, because the more public these reports get, the more politicized they may become," Schwartz said.
CDT maintains OpenCRS.com, to date the largest repository of CRS reports. Schwartz said the 6,780 reports released by Wikileaks should help to fill in most of the gaps in its archive of missing CRS reports going back several years.
Schwartz said Wikileaks has agreed to feed OpenCRS.com's document collection with all newly released CRS reports it receives.
In years past, several lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully to garner support for making the CRS reports directly available to citizens online. One such proponent, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (ID-Conn.), praised the action by Wikileaks, saying he hopes to work with the Senate Rules Committee "to create a comprehensive and officially-sanctions system for releasing CRS reports to the public."
"I have long argued that CRS reports should be made more widely available to the public, in part because they are produced at public expense and because broad dissemination supports the goal of greater government transparency," Lieberman said. "Wikileaks's recent action demonstrates the futility of any effort to limit distribution of those reports."
The secrecy of the reports has created a bootleg market for the documents. Gallery Watch, owned by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, has sold the CRS reports for years. Gallery Watch declined to comment for this story.
Gallery Watch receives its feed of CRS reports from Walt Seager, 70, a former trade magazine journalist based in Damascus, Md., who for 25 years has mined the Hill for them.
For his part, Seager is unconcerned about the mass publication of CRS documents and said he welcomes the challenge.
"I don't think it will be a complete archive, and I don't think they'll have the timeliness and value-added material that we can bring," Seager said. "Life is pretty boring without some competition."