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Net Efforts Shed More Light On Washington

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The OpenCRS database of research performed for Congress, and the Secrecy Report Card from OpenTheGovernment.org, have helped make more information about the federal government available online.

The diligent folks at ResourceShelf had a couple of interesting items to add to their regular newsfeed. Both focus on the US government, and information that regular citizens should find important.

At Open The Government, their Secrecy Report Card confirmed what many have believed about the Bush Administration: it’s growing more secretive year after year:

•  Since 2001, the “state secrets” privilege (the executive branch power to impose secrecy with little opportunity for appeal or judicial review) has been used a reported 39 times – an average of six times per year in 6.5 years that is more than double the average (2.46) in the previous 24 years.

•  In 2006, 26 percent ($107.5 billion) of federal contracts dollars were completely uncompeted; only one-third of contracts dollars are subject to full and open competition.

•  In six years, President Bush has issued at least 151 signing statements, challenging 1,149 provisions of laws. Of these challenges, 85 percent have been on “constitutional” grounds. Such challenges make it difficult for the public to know that the laws are “faithfully executed” as required by the U.S. Constitution.

•  A 2007 Justice Department Office of the Inspector General report on secret wiretap warrants indicated that the government made 143,074 National Security Letter requests in the period 2003-2005. The number for 2006 remains classified. These requests can be used to obtain information about individuals without the government applying for a court-reviewed warrant.

OpenCRS serves to deliver reports created by the Congressional Research Service to the taxpayers who fund the think tank, to the tune of $100 million per year. The Service performs non-partisan research on the issues Congress considers during legislative sessions.

The CRS does not make these reports easy for people to obtain, which is why the Center for Democracy & Technology launched OpenCRS two years ago. However, their efforts recently received a boost. An anonymous member of Congress has agreed to provide the project with a running list of CRS reports as they are published, the Center said in a statement.

One recent report, on income inequality and the US tax system, confirms something that many have believed for a long time: much of the income and earnings in the US has been increasingly centered on smaller numbers of people over the past quarter-century.

In short, the rich get richer, and Congress knows it. Now you do too.

Net Efforts Shed More Light On Washington
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