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Federal City Digest

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Federal Reports Leaked

The online group that first published Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's hacked e-mails is again revealing information that others would like to remain private -- but this time, they've got open-government groups on their side.

On Monday, Wikileaks.org, a clearinghouse for leaked documents, published thousands of previously unreleased Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports, our colleague Brian Krebs reports, and the group says it's on track to receive a steady stream of new ones from a confidential source.

"These documents belong in the public domain because they represent an essential part of policymaking and they are produced with taxpayer dollars," Wikileaks spokesman Daniel Schmitt said. The documents attracted more traffic to the group's Web site than did the Palin e-mails last year, crashing the site for two hours as 5 million visitors attempted to download the files.

CRS spokeswoman Janine D'Addario said funding legislation from Congress specifically restricts the service from making the reports directly available to the public. "Because we work for Congress, we don't want to be placed in a situation where we're speaking directly to those constituents," she said.

But some members of Congress also think it's time to open the documents to the public. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) praised the action by Wikileaks, saying he hopes to work with the Senate rules committee "to create a comprehensive and officially sanctioned system for releasing CRS reports to the public."

Immigration Suggestions

Members of an influential Washington think tank yesterday recommended major changes in the nation's immigration policy, including freezing construction of a security fence, above, along the U.S.-Mexico border and suspending "zero tolerance" prosecution programs against people caught crossing segments of the border, our colleague Spencer S. Hsu reports.

The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan group whose presenters included former U.S. immigration chiefs under both parties, recommended 36 steps the Obama administration could take without congressional approval to alter policies developed during the Bush administration.

WHAT TO WATCH

· President Obama will take his stimulus tour to Peoria, Ill., where it should play well at a Caterpillar manufacturing plant. Already, the chief executive of Caterpillar, the heavy-equipment maker, has said he'll rehire some laid-off workers if the stimulus passes. Obama will also commemorate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth with a speech in Springfield, Ill., and, before leaving the District, he'll join House and Senate leaders of both parties at the Capitol to participate in a congressional tribute to the iconic president. [Story, C1.]

· Vice President Biden will lead a delegation to the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho, where he will observe the final round of the figure-skating competition, congratulate and present medals to the athletes, and speak at a reception.

· The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold hearings on the nominations of Jane Lubchenco to be director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and John Holdren to be director of the office of science and technology policy at the White House. Both are scheduled to appear.

· Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will deliver remarks at 10 a.m. at the pavement-breaking of the "People's Garden" at the Agriculture Department.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta federalcity@washpost.com

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