1

Redactions within some of the recently declassified Congressional documents (for example here) are entirely reasonable efforts to protect national security as provided by the Executive Order 13526. However, EO 13526 may not be directly applicable to legislative activities.

So, are there any written rules regarding Congressional documents specifically in regards to the names of authors ?

I offer this seemingly innocuous research report example:Intro to Legislative process Not only is the author's name redacted but also the names of people that were acknowledged as helping prepare this report. This report appears to be a civics lesson explaining the legislative process, so I suspect that the subject matter itself is not sensitive.

9
  • 1
    Personal information uniquely identifying a private figure is considered extremely sensitive in a number of jurisdictions. – origimbo May 4 '18 at 16:50
  • 2
    Origmbo, while true enough, othe CSR reports do identify authors. Regardless, I'm asking if there are any rules. – BobE May 5 '18 at 0:20
  • @BobE: That is a rule... if the name is not of a political person, it will be redacted out of privacy concerns. – hszmv May 8 '18 at 16:06
  • 1
    @hszmv, we'd had related discussion before and I appreciate your prior responses on compartmental designators, however I'm asking if there are any written rules. Previously I cited (and will do again if necessary) authors that are NOT (to the best of my knowledge) "political persons" whose names are not redacted. – BobE May 8 '18 at 16:28
  • @BobE: The rule is don't release information on anyone unless they are elected or politically appointed or otherwise answerable to the public in some fashion. – hszmv May 8 '18 at 20:09
1

Are there written rules regarding redactions in Congressional documents?

For the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the rule is shown below. In the part that is emboldened, the sentence "Nothing herein shall be construed as requiring . . ." implies redaction of the items listed is permitted. There is no other mention in the rules that would imply "redaction".

Rules of the House of Representatives

Rule X 11(c)

(2) The select committee shall obtain annual reports from the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Such reports shall review the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the agency or department concerned and the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of foreign countries directed at the United States or its interests. An unclassified version of each report may be made available to the public at the discretion of the select committee. Nothing herein shall be construed as requiring the public disclosure in such reports of the names of persons engaged in intelligence or intelligence-related activities for the United States or the divulging of intelligence methods employed or the sources of information on which the reports are based or the amount of funds authorized to be appropriated for intelligence and intelligence-related activities.

Of the Senate, for certain executive sessions, a resolution is required to "take off the injunction of secrecy" that would allow proceedings (or "any part of the proceedings") to be made public.


So, are there any written rules regarding Congressional documents specifically in regards to the names of authors ?

The rules for Congressional Research Service documents say nothing about redacting the author's name, only contact information; though redaction of the author's name is permitted by law.

Public Release of CRS Reports: FAQ for Congressional Staff

Will there be any difference between the public and congressional version of CRS reports?

The research and analysis contained in each report, as well as the overall design, will be identical on both the public and congressional versions. The contact information (i.e., email address and phone number) for CRS report authors will be redacted from the public version. The placement of the author information will also be modified on the public version. The congressional version of reports on CRS.gov will have the same full contact information that is currently available.


With reference to the image of the report in the question,

The document you found appears to be a unique in that respect, though it may not have been at the time. The particular document for the image has been updated and the author's name is given. See, Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress. A search of fas.org shows only 21 documents with "name redacted", none of which appear to relate to the author's name.


Here is what I suspect happened to cause "name redacted" to appear on that document.

On May 3, 2017, H.R.2335 was introduced in the House. Some of the text, shown below, was incorporated into S.1648 - Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2018, July 27, 2017. S.1648 subsequently became Public Law No. 115-141 on March, 23, 2018.

CRS knew, by late 2017, that it would be necessary to transfer a potentially large number of documents from CRS.gov to a public site after the law was approved. On January 10, 2018, CRS ran a test transferring some documents, including the one shown in the image. That test removed the author information, replacing it with "name redacted", as permitted by the evolving law.

The document was retrieved in May 2018.

Subsequently, the affected documents, those with "name redacted", where replaced with newly formatted or updated documents to meet a September 18, 2018 time constraint for some documents "with a full migration targeted for completion by spring 2019". That the CRS intended to reformat (i.e., change the placement of) the author information in the documents is mentioned in the block quote above.

In other words, the presence of "name redacted" has no special significance.

Additional information is available at CRS Previews Public Release of its Reports, June 22, 2018.


H.R.2335 - Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act of 2017,

SEC. 4. WEBSITE CONTENTS.

(a) Specific Requirements For Reports Posted On Website.—

(2) RESPONSIBILITIES OF CRS DIRECTOR.—With respect to each CRS Report included on the Website, the CRS Director shall, prior to transmitting the Report to the GPO Director—

(A) at the discretion of the CRS Director, remove the name of and any contact information for any employee of CRS; and

2
  • a bit of a nit to pick - the quoted text (from HR2335) does seem to say "remove the name of ", so you might want to edit your remark about "redacting the author's name" – BobE Dec 4 '20 at 17:40
  • @BobE - The law grants discretion. The rules, based on the law and using that discretion, says nothing about redacting the author's name. I agree that it is a minor point; but consistent as written. – Rick Smith Dec 4 '20 at 18:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .