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The Government Domain: News Roundup

By Peggy Garvin, Published on January 15, 2006

Peggy Garvin of Garvin Information Consulting is author of The United States Government Internet Manual (Bernan Press) and contributing author for The Congressional Deskbook, 2005-2007 (TheCapitol.Net).

Winter holidays, semester break, congressional recess-whatever you have been doing, it is now time to catch up with changes on the federal government web. Here are some highlights:

The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) is a new entity with a new web site at www.loc.gov/crb/. The CRB was created by the Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act of 2004, Public Law 108-419. The CRB consists of three permanent copyright royalty judges who were appointed in early January 2006. The web site has information on the judges, CRB notices in the Federal Register, and forms for filing royalty fee claims for cable, satellite, and digital audio recording devices and media. The site will also carry information on CRB's rate and distribution proceedings..


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Website for the new Copyright Royalty Board.



The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-458) created new entities in the Intelligence Community, and some of these new entities have their own web sites. The law established the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). To date, most of the news releases carried on the web site for the Office of the DNI have concerned new appointees to leadership positions.

The 2004 intelligence reform law put the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) under the DNI. The NCTC web site has general information on the agency and its leadership, and press releases. The site links to related resources, such as the Terrorism Knowledge Base(sm) (TKB) from the private, non-profit National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT). TKB includes the National Counterterrorism Center's Worldwide Incident Tracking System (WITS) Data Portal. The NCTC web site also has a PDF 2006 Counterterrorism Calendar that you can print out. The daily entries note prominent terrorism events. Background information on terrorists, groups, and tips (e.g. "Bomb Threat Stand-Off Distances") is provided along the side. A National Counterproliferation Center (NCPC), also called for in the intelligence reform law, has been formally established but does not appear to have a public web presence yet.


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Website for the new National Counterterrorism Center


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) posted a new organization chart online in December 2005. The agency's new National Clandestine Service appears on the chart; is it too clandestine to have its own public website? The new Open Source Center, a DNI office based at the CIA and called for in the 2004 intelligence reform bill, is not broken out on the chart. According to the joint DNI-CIA press release, the Open Source Center will "build on the established expertise of the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) - an organization that enjoys a long history of providing the US government highly valued open source products and services." At least for now, it is operating under the FBIS web address. (Public access to FBIS products is advertised at the National Technical Information Service's World News Connection site.)

The State Department used to post a product called Foreign Media Reaction on its USINFO website. As of December 2005, this summary of foreign press stories about the U.S. is no longer on State's public website. State has declared the Media Reaction product to be an internal document not for public distribution. You did not miss the press release on this-there was none-but the change was reported by Washington Post blogger Jefferson Morley..

The Library of Congress Federal Research Division (FRD) has long made the Country Studies series available online. The popular Country Studies books, also known as Army Area Handbooks, were sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Army and published by FRD between 1986 and 1998. FRD is self-supporting and does not engage in projects without sponsorship. Unfortunately, sponsorship for the Country Studies has been an on-again, off-again affair of late and some of the books are now quite out-of-date, a situation which leads researchers to ask perennially, "What's up with the Country Studies?" This can be answered in part by FRD's Country Studies FAQ. (I have been told these FAQs will be updated very soon; the current version is dated October 2004.) The situation today is that FRD received funding to perform five new studies, covering Cuba, Indonesia, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan. FRD hopes to publish these in 2006. In the meantime, researchers looking for updated information may wish to check the list of FRD's Country Profiles, 20-page summaries that cover the same topics (e.g., history, geography, economy, national security, government and politics) covered by the much more exhaustive Country Studies. The profiles were sponsored by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Forty are online now and nine more are in the works. FRD will keep these updated (in contrast to the Country Studies, which are static). Researchers may also wish to check State's Background Notes, the CIA's World Factbook, and news sources for the most current information.

The United States Senate website got a new look this month. The most notable change is the addition of a site search engine. Front page changes include direct links to content deeper in the site, such as the Virtual Reference Desk and the list of scheduled hearings, and feature articles about the Senate.

The Federal Reserve Bulletin is no longer issued as a printed, quarterly publication. Beginning in 2006, the Fed will publish Bulletin articles online, as they become available, at www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/bulletin/. A new annual compendium of Bulletin articles will be printed and will include a legal developments section. The Fed offers an email notification service announcing when new Bulletin articles come online. The notification service is also used for announcements of newly available testimony, speeches, press releases, and other items.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, in partnership with the Government Printing Office (GPO), has posted back copies of the Economic Report of the President (1960-1995) on its FRASER site. The documents are in PDF with HTML tables of contents. FRASER hosts scanned images of historical economic statistical publications, releases, and documents. It offers a word search of the documents and of the tables in the documents. For copies of the Economic Report of the President from 1995 to present, see GPO Access.

Two related federal web sites-Grant.gov and FedGrants.gov-merged into one site, Grants.gov, in December 2005. Grants.gov is not new, but the merger brings a single consistent interface for the Find and Apply functions. The new version also brings an improved advanced search, more efficient results viewing and sorting, and easy access to an XML data extract function. For details, see the December 19, 2005 Grantee Build Release Notes.

The Statistical Abstract of the United States is not new; in fact, it has been published by the U.S. government since the late nineteenth century. Electronic versions of the Statistical Abstract are not new either. The Census Bureau has issued it on CD-ROM and the Internet since the 1990's. But the 2006 version, the 125th edition, is new. It just came out in December 2005. Also relatively new: the phenomenon of standard reference books like the Statistical Abstract losing the attention of an audience that has a web-centric, Google-centric view of information. The Statistical Abstract is on the web and you can find it using Google, but it has been overshadowed by more web-friendly statistical portals such as FedStats.gov and more powerful web tools such as American Factfinder. On the Internet, Stat Ab (as it is known to its fans) is simply a PDF version of the book. It is flat. No hypertext linking from the index to the indexed statistical table or from a quoted data source to that source's website. No downloadable spreadsheet formats (on the CD-ROM version, but not the Internet). If you find a good table, printing it out is often the easiest way to read it. All the same, the 1,000-pages-plus book has great research value. It includes a wide range of U.S. statistics. The 80 tables new to the 2006 edition cover homeland security grants by state, asthma incidence among children under 18 years of age, contraceptive use by women, public schools with broadband and wireless connections, state trends in identity theft, and much more. Sources are from the government and the private and nonprofit sector. In fact, one of the best uses of Stat Ab is as a source for finding statistical sources. Find a table on your topic, consult the excellent source notes, and go to the source for more on your topic. Appendix I has handy listings of all source and referrals to state and international government sources for data.

To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Statistical Abstract, the editors begin each topical chapter with a reprint of a page from a past edition. Particularly amusing is this table delineating AMOUNT of INTERNAL REVENUE RECEIPTS from all sources from 1863 to 1878, inclusive. It offers a pleasant distraction from the dizzying stream of new site announcements.