Wikileaks, a website that has been publishing anonymous submissions and leaks of sensitive governmental, corporate, or religious documents since December 2006, has been described as a Wiki for Whistle-Blowers in an article in Time magazine. Like Wikipedia, the content on the site is posted by users and must be evaluated for authenticity. The site, if used with a healthy dose of skepticism, could become as important a tool as the Freedom of Information Act.
In this week’s announcement Wikileaks says that it has published an extensive database of Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. The Congressional Research Service is an arm of the Library of Congress devoted to providing research and analysis on legislative issues for Congress. The 6,780 reports now posted on Wikileaks date back to 1990 and have an estimated value of US$1 billion. The reports may give the public a better idea of the information Congress has had at its disposal, and perhaps push lawmakers into making future reports publicly available.
“Legally, they belong in the public domain,” Wikileaks spokesperson Daniel Schmitt said. “It is very important for anyone who is doing research as well as the general public to have access to this information, and see what the congressional research services is [producing].” In the past few years, there has been increasing demand to make CRS reports open to the public. Open CRS is another website whose aim is to make CRS reports public. While it is legal to make these reports public, historically members of Congress and their staffers have done this at their discretion. Schwartz estimates that Open CRS was publishing between 80 and 90 percent of all reports being produced. The reports are also sold by data collection services such as Penny Hill Press.
A number of libraries and non-profit organizations have sought to collect as many of the released reports as possible. Such collections include: