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GAO Releases List of Restricted Reports

Comptroller General Gene Dodaro oversees the GAO. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Government Accountability Office released its list of "restricted reports" this week to better inform lawmakers, congressional staff, government employees and the public about its investigations.  

The Federation of American Scientists first reported  the list was launched this week. A spokesperson for the GAO said the decision to list the reports stemmed from complaints from lawmakers that they were not always aware the reports existed. "We heard from some Members of Congress that they were not always aware of such reports if they were not on the direct Committee that requested them," GAO spokesman Chuck Young wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call Friday afternoon. "So we wanted to be sure Members and staff authorized to see such work were aware of the work."  

Young also said the GAO aimed to follow the "best practices" of other government inspectors general, who typically publish titles of their reports. He said the agency will still work to issue redacted versions of the restricted reports to the public.  

The legislative branch agency is a self-described "congressional watchdog" that investigates government spending. Its reports often come at the request of lawmakers, congressional committees and subcommittees, or are mandated by law.  

As Young indicated, the list is aimed at government employees who are authorized to read the reports. Due to the restricted nature, members of the public will likely not be able to access them. As the form allowing government employees to request them noted, "Classified products are distributed only to those with the appropriate security clearance and an official need-to-know."  

Listing the names of confidential reports was one option raised in the debate over confidential Congressional Research Service reports . The CRS reports are not available to the public, though many can be found online through the FAS.  

Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., who co-chairs the Congressional Transparency Caucus, earlier this year proposed an amendment to a legislative branch spending bill to publish a similar list of the CRS reports, though the amendment was not added to the bill. But the debate continues. Quigley will join other lawmakers and transparency advocates at a Capitol Hill event on Thursday to discuss expanding access to the CRS reports.  

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