The Constitution Annotated: The Pursuit of App-iness

September 17, 2013

follow-the-founding-fathers-david-bowman_computerIn preparing for this Constitution Day blog post, not only did I retake the civics quiz from last year’s Constitution Day post (see Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?), I also scrolled through my tablet last night, reading the Preamble to the Constitution and looking up related quotes. Then it occurred to me: if Founding Father George Washington had been alive today, would he have been a PC or an Apple guy? I’m betting our pragmatic First President would be a PC guy. I’m pretty sure innovator Thomas Jefferson would have been a stylish iPad man, and Benjamin Franklin, inventor of the bifocals, would probably be sporting Google Glasses now and tinkering with them.

Image: Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington. Original Illustration by David Bowman from his book “What Would the Founding Fathers Think?”

constitution-annotated-printWhat is clear is that our Founding Fathers were strategic thinkers who realized that a fully functioning republic needed a clear but flexible code of law that evolved with the Nation. Thus, they wrote the Constitution of the United States, which has stood the test of time with over two centuries of amendments and interpretations by all branches of the U.S. Federal Government.

CONAN for the Librarian (and Lawyers)

Since 1913, the Senate has directed that a publication be issued summarizing the current state of the Constitution to date, with all the amendments and the official interpretations, with the analysis today provided by the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service. This publication is called The Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation, popularly known as the Constitution Annotated or “CONAN” among the real insiders.

Constitution-of-the-US-Pocket-GuideIn addition, many Americans, including Members of Congress, buy a pocket print edition of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to carry around with them at all times. (Click on image to the left.)

Constitution Goes Mobile and Online

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Constitution Annotated publication, and to celebrate it and Constitution Day, the Government Printing Office (GPO) not only issued the Centennial Edition in print, but has also worked with the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the Library of Congress to develop and launch both a new mobile app as well as a web publication that make analysis and interpretation of constitutional case law by Library experts accessible for free to anyone with a computer or mobile device.

The new resources, which include analysis of Supreme Court cases through June 26, 2013, will be updated multiple times each year as new court decisions are issued.  Legal professionals, teachers, students and anyone researching the constitutional implications of a particular topic can easily locate constitutional amendments, federal and state laws that were held unconstitutional, and tables of recent cases with corresponding topics and constitutional implications.

The new app and improved web publication will make the nearly 3,000-page “Constitution Annotated” more accessible to more people and enable updates of new case analysis three or four times each year.

Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks said,

“Through this collaborative project, the Library of Congress and GPO are providing the public with timely access to an enhanced, authenticated version of the “Constitution Annotated” through GPO’s Federal Digital System. This is another example of how GPO works with Congress, the Library and other agencies to meet the information needs of the American people in the digital age.”

Keeping our “Complex Machinery” in Working Order

On May 19, 1821, years after the Constitution was adopted, John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson that:

“A free government is a complicated piece of machinery, the nice and exact adjustment of whose springs, wheels, and weights, is not yet well comprehended by the artists of the age, and still less by the people.”

Even though our Founding Fathers could not have envisioned a digital future complete with the Internet and smartphones, the framework they put in place has been able to roll with the times. Americans know that our system is indeed a “complicated piece of machinery,” with our laws serving as the user manual, but tools like the Constitution Annotated– in print or now online or on your mobile device– now exist to help keep our machinery of democracy well oiled.

George-Washingtons-Annotated-Copy-of-a-Draft-of-the-U.S.-ConstitutionImage: Even George Washington annotated his copy of the Constitution! (seen left). Source: National Archives

How can I obtain The Constitution Annotated?

1) Buy the Print Edition of The Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation, Centennial Edition

2) Mobile app version of the Constitution Annotated

  • For Apple iOS Devices: Download the new Constitution Annotated app for iOS devices for free from Apple’s iTunes Store or via this direct link: http://beta.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/.
  • ·        For Android Devices: An Android version of this app is under development.

3) Constitution Annotated web publication on FDsys.gov

The Constitution Annotated web publication will be available on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) www.fdsys.gov as a digitally-signed, searchable PDF that includes a linked table of contents, a linked table of cases, a linked index and GPO’s Seal of Authenticity on every page.

The new Constitution Annotated and a suite of constitutional resources can be viewed at http://beta.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/. The page features links to the app stores, an interactive table listing recent cases of high interest, a bibliography of Constitution-related primary documents in American history and tips for searching the Constitution Annotated on GPO’s website at www.gpo.gov/constitutionannotated.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


September 11 Tales of Heroes and Tough Lessons

September 11, 2013

9-11 Decade of Remembrance Twin Towers and Pentagon Logo designed by David McKenzie at the Government Printing OfficeThere are certain moments and events that are etched in our national consciousness. Ask any American who was alive in the 60’s where he or she was when John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King was assassinated and you will hear a stirring personal story. For our generation, it was September 11, 2001.

Image: September 11 Decade of Remembrance logo with World Trade Center Twin Towers surrounded by a figure representing the Pentagon. Created by David McKenzie with the Government Printing Office for the U.S. Government Bookstore.

I was right across from the Twin Towers twelve years ago today, getting ready to board a ferry for my daily commute from New Jersey across the Hudson River into Manhattan, when I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center right across from me. So, too, I cried with a group of strangers as we stood on the ferry platform and watched in horror as the first tower fall, saw the dust cloud rise and felt the earth—and the world—tremble.

America and Americans have changed since that day… twelve years ago today. We have since heard stirring stories of heroes and sacrifice, and learned many grim lessons that are still affecting both policy and people today.

Many of these stories of heroism, missed opportunities, and resulting actions have been painstakingly and faithfully chronicled by a wide array of Federal agencies, ensuring the sacrifices and lessons are not forgotten.

Responding to the Tragedies

Both in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, we saw how first responders and medical personnel rushed to save lives. These excellent publications tell the stories of the heroes from that day:

  • 008-000-01049-8Pentagon 9/11 (10th Anniversary Edition) (Paperback) includes a foreword by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and provides the most comprehensive account available of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and aftermath, including unprecedented details on the impact on the Pentagon building and personnel and the scope of the rescue, recovery, and care-giving effort.
  • 008-000-01048-0Attack on the Pentagon: The Medical Response to 9/11 not only tells the personal stories from medical personnel responding to the attack on the Pentagon, but also provides insight from MEDCOM officers detailed to New York to support National Guard troops guarding ground zero’s perimeter. It also includes the Army’s involvement in the recovery of deceased attack victims at the Pentagon and the work of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in identifying human remains at Dover Air Force Base. In addition, the roles of military and civilian hospital staffs and of military environmental health and mental health specialists in taking care of attack victims and their families are also examined.

Tough Lessons

The single must-read for every American about September 11 is the official version of The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. This publication lists the findings of the National 9/11 Commission, listing all the painful errors made leading up to the terrorist attacks and outlining specific recommendations for international, national, state and local changes in policy and procedures that the panel of experts felt needed to be implemented to ensure a similar attack never happened again. This seminal publication has served to inform all subsequent policies and legislation since 9/11. It is available in print or as an eBook.

911-commission-report

Image: Launch of the 9/11 Commission Report. Courtesy: CSMonitor.com

The Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence, and House, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence examined the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11 and jointly published the results in United States Congressional Serial Set, Serial No. 14750: Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activity Before and After Terrorists Attacks of September 11, 2001 With Errata.

027-001-00097-1Additional insights into the causes of and responses to terrorism can be gleaned from Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP): A Collection of Research Ideas, Thoughts, and Perspectives, V. 1. This publication provides the findings from the post-9/11 FBI Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP) Symposium. TRAP is a leading research consortium made up of international/domestic academics and law enforcement officers, and is a working group sponsored by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. In it, these counter-terrorism experts provide a better understanding of the causes of terrorist activity and possible government response tactics to mitigate terrorist actions.

064-000-00029-2As we watch the new World Trade Center going up in New York, we can be assured that builders are incorporating architectural and construction lessons learned from the World Trade Center Building Performance Study: Data Collection, Preliminary Observations, and Recommendations.

Policy and Legislative Response

United States Congressional Serial Set, Serial No. 14924, House Report No. 724, 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act, Pts. 1-6 outlines the specific legislative changes enacted by Congress, providing both background and justifications for them along with attribution.

A print copy of the law itself can be purchased here: Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Public Law 110-53 along with the details of the various committee conferences contributing to it in Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 1, July 25, 2007.

Defending the Homeland since 9/11

041-001-00657-5National Strategy for Homeland Security (October 2007) provides the common framework outlined by the George W. Bush Administration to guides, organize and unify the United States’ homeland security efforts.

008-000-01068-4A new publication from the Air Force Reserve called Turning Point 9.11: Air Force Reserve in the 21st Century, 2001-2011 tells the story of how the Air Force Reserve responded to 9/11 and have contributed to the security of the United States in a post-September 11 world.

050-012-00440-4In a similar vein, Rogue Wave: The U.S. Coast Guard on and After 9/11 chronicles the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard on that fateful day and the evolving role in national and world security since.  Part of the Coast Guard 9/11 response is told in this touching video about the boatlift to evacuate people from lower Manhattan is told in a video narrated by Tom Hanks entitled: BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience.”

A touching video about the boatlift to evacuate people from lower Manhattan on 9/11 (September 11) is told in a video narrated by Tom Hanks entitled: BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience. Click on the image above or this link to view the “Boatlift” video.

The upcoming U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Issues, Volume 2: National Security Policy and Strategy provides a summarized look at the national security curriculum now taught to our nation’s top military and civilian leaders by the U.S. Army War College. Revised with the lessons learned from the years since 9/11, this publication includes a chapter on ”Securing America From Attack: The Defense Department’s Evolving Role After 9/11.”

How can I obtain these Federal 9/11 publications?

  • Shop Online: Print Editions of these 9/11-related publications may be ordered from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov, by clicking on the links above in this blog post or shopping our Terrorism & 9/11 History collection under our US & Military History category.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy copies of these publications at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Find them in a Library: Find these publications in a federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Congressional Pictorial Directory: A Great Memory Jogger

September 10, 2013

Do you ever have a problem putting a name to a face (or vice-versa)? The older I get, the more challenging the fast recall of names becomes.  For people who work on Capitol Hill, such as lobbyists and Congressional staffers, knowing who that person coming down the hall is can be pretty important.

2013 Congressional Pictorial Directory for the 113th Congress. Avasilable from http://bookstore.gpo.govA handy tool to help solve this conundrum is the Congressional Pictorial Directory. The directory provides a color photograph of each Member of the House of Representatives and the Senate and details each Member’s length of service, political party affiliation, and congressional district. The Pictorial Directory also contains pictures of the President, Vice President, and House and Senate officers and officials.  Senators and Representatives also are listed alphabetically, and are included in a separate listing of state delegations.

One of the nicer features of this publication is the size. It measures 4-1/2” by 6-1/4”, and can conveniently slip into a suit jacket pocket, purse or handbag. It is also available in both hardcover and paperback editions.

The U.S. Government Printing Office also makes the information from the Congressional Pictorial Directory– together with data from the Guide to the House and Senate Members– available as a free mobile site. This provides even more convenience by permitting the photo and other Member information to be accessed and displayed on a laptop, smartphone or other web-enabled mobile device.  The Mobile Member Guide mobile site for the 113th Congress provides the public with quick, easy access to information on Members of the 113th Congress. The app allows users to browse for Members of Congress by last name, state, chamber, or party. The public can take advantage of this free mobile Web site on major mobile device platforms.

How Do I Get a Copy of the Congressional Pictorial Directory or the Mobile Member Guide?

1) Buy Print Editions of the Congressional Pictorial Directory:

  • Shop Online: Print Editions of the Congressional Pictorial Directory may be ordered from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore under the Congressional Directories collection under Government Forms & Phone Directories.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. Washington, DC area or International customers should call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy copies of the print edition at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except US Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Find it in a Library: Find this publication in a federal depository library.

2) Visit the FREE “Mobile Member Guide for the 113th Congress” mobile site from GPO: http://m.gpo.gov/memberguide/

  • This mobile site contains each Member’s picture, party affiliation, hometown, home state, and length of service. Users may use the app to search Members of Congress by name, state, chamber and party. (Read more…)
  • For more information on all GPO’s mobile apps and sites, visit http://www.gpo.gov/mobile/.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Guest Blogger Jeff Turner is Director of Sales and Marketing for GPO’s Publications and Information Sales Program.


The Privacy Act: What the Government Can Collect and Disclose about You

June 28, 2013

Privacy is the watchword in the news these days. With the revelations in recent weeks about far-reaching domestic surveillance programs by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other Federal agencies that were expanded under the Patriot Act, Americans are scrambling to determine what privacy rights they have to information collected by the Federal Government.

Overview-of-the-Privacy-Act-of-1974-2012-Edition-9780160914461Thus, the timing is ideal to review a biennial publication, Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 (2012 Edition), available in print from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore.

The Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 provides a valuable function to consumers, the media, Government and members of the legal profession by not only providing the current text of the Privacy Act and all its subsequent amendments, but also by consolidating the current regulations and updates, interpreting the Act’s provisions and giving detailed legal analysis of the latest court decisions that have decided challenges to how the Privacy Act has been enacted by various White House Administrations and Federal Agencies since the Act was passed.

What is covered by the Privacy Act?

The Privacy Act of 1974 established a “Code of Fair Information Practice that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personally identifiable information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies.”

The Privacy Act protects certain federal government records pertaining to individuals. In particular, the Act covers “systems of records” that an agency maintains and retrieves by an individual’s name or other personal identifier, such as your social security number.  (For clarification, a “system of records” refers to a group of records or a file under the control of a particular Federal agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifier assigned to the individual.)

With the advent of wide-spread use of computers and databases by the Federal Government, the Privacy Act was amended through the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988, which added certain protections for the subjects of Privacy Act records whose records are used in automated matching programs, such as the establishment of Data Integrity Boards at each agency.

Privacy Act Requirements

But what rights do individuals have under the Privacy Act? According to the Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 (2012 Edition), it gives individuals the right to review records about themselves, to find out if these records have been disclosed, and to request corrections or amendments of these records, unless the records are legally exempt.

From reading the publication, it seems the Act also requires that a Federal Government agency must:

  • give the public notice of their systems of records by publishing them in the Federal Register (also available as a subscription from GPO);
  • follow strict record-keeping requirements;
  • request the written consent of the subject individual for disclosure of their personal information– “unless the disclosure is pursuant to one of twelve statutory exceptions;” and
  • provide individuals with a means  by which they can access and amend (review and correct) records stored about them.

Your-Right-to-Federal-Records-2011-coverYour Right to Federal Records

For information about your rights to “discover, access and amend” Government records about you and frequently asked questions and answers about the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), you might want to check out the free publication, “Your Right to Federal Records available from the GSA’s Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC).

You may also be interested in learning more about the Freedom of Information Act by reading the Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, also published by the Justice Department and available in print from GPO.

Scope Issues

The Privacy Act does NOT apply to data collected about persons outside the United States, nor does it protect the privacy of your records that are maintained by the private sector, such as your credit report, bank account and medical records or even local or state government records like your driver’s license. Since many Americans today assumed that the battle to keep this non-Federal data private was already lost, it was comforting to discover that there is still a measure of privacy in data kept about you by the Federal Government.

And finally, while The Privacy Act does apply to the records of every “individual,” it nevertheless only applies to records held by an “agency.” Thus, any records ”held by courts, executive components, or non-agency government entities are not subject to the provisions in the Privacy Act and there is no right to these records.”  The Overview covers many questions about scope.

Exemptions and Exceptions

The most fascinating part of reading the publication to me– and timely considering the current news cycle– was to learn that there are situations where the Government is not legally required to follow the Privacy Act . According to the Overview, there are currently Twelve Exceptions to the “No Disclosure Without Consent” Rule of the Act and Ten Exemptions to the Privacy Act altogether where Federal agencies are not required to disclose records. 

Two of the ten exemptions outlined by the Overview are the “General Exemptions,” which apply to records about individuals maintained by

1)      the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and

2)      law enforcement agencies— or a component thereof— that primarily perform criminal law enforcement duties, “including police efforts to prevent, control, or reduce crime or to apprehend criminals.”

New proposed exemptions are offered all the time by subsequent Congresses and Administrations, such as the George W. Bush Administration’s agreement signed with the European Union in 2007 to share an airline’s Passenger Name Record as well as the utilize the Automated Targeting System.

Protecting-your-privacy

The questions about what constitute personally identifying data; what legal exemptions and exceptions apply; and how the Privacy Act has been interpreted over time by Federal Agencies, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Federal courts make up a good part of the Overview.

With post-9/11 security concerns driving Agencies’ desire for more information coupled with rapidly evolving technologies that enable greater collection and analysis of data, the publishers of the Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 will certainly be kept very busy in upcoming years reporting on and analyzing new privacy regulations and court decisions that will follow.

How Can I Obtain These Privacy Publications?

Anyone concerned with the laws governing what the Federal Government is collecting and disclosing about individuals in the United States—and how much individuals can learn about it—should read this important publication.

  • Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 (2012 Edition) in Print
    • Shop Online: Buy a print edition on the GPO U.S. Government Online Bookstore NOW ON SALE!!
    • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
    • Visit our Retail Store: Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
    • Find it in a Library: Search for it in a Federal Depository Library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Losing our Shared National Experience?

October 31, 2011

Our blog post last week talked about GPO’s 150-year history of keeping America informed. But what does this mean in today’s media-saturated world?

Has the proliferation of media eroded our shared national experience?

[Figure 1. U.S. History Collage. Image courtesy of Mrs. Rice’s American History II class, Lexington High School, Lexington, Ohio.

Two weeks ago in a social media seminar for Federal Government, David Kirkpatrick (technology writer for the Daily Beast and Fortune magazine and author of a new insider book on Facebook) gave some startling statistics: 50% of Facebook’s 800 million users worldwide visit Facebook daily and up to 500 million have accessed Facebook on a single day, with the average Facebook user having over 130 “friends.”

But even more surprising, he said that 50% of Americans today now get their news and analysis about important events— sometimes edited or changed as it is passed along— from friends and family, often via social networks, text or email rather than from traditional media sources.

Prior to the 21st century, when Americans had only a few national media choices and limited local media, we would all receive the same original message at the same time, thus creating a shared American experience.

Today, in the U.S. alone Americans can choose to receive information from any of an estimated 1,476 daily newspapers; 1,500 television stations; 10,322 radio stations; 71 million cable television subscribers with hundreds of TV channels each; and more than 12 billion web pages and social media.

Kirkpatrick and others say the combination of the “Facebook effect”, media proliferation, and message selectivity have contributed to the erosion of our common, shared national experience.

GPO’s role in preserving our common American experience

As we mentioned in our blog last week, GPO’s mission for over 150 years has been “Keeping America Informed” about the three branches of the Federal Government.  This mission drives us to ensure the original information produced by Federal Agencies on behalf of the American people can be found by all Americans now and in the future.

What’s involved in capturing and disseminating our common Governmental information? It starts with gathering the content from Federal Agencies and publishing it in a professional format, whether print or digital. It then continues with authenticating the information to ensure Americans are getting the “genuine” unaltered information; creating permanent records with our catalog teams for our own FDSys digital database and Catalog of Government Publications; distributing these records to libraries in our Federal Depository Library Program and to worldwide library databases like WorldCat; and sending physical copies and/or ebooks to libraries, bookstores and book etailers.

View this video for an inside look at how GPO assembles and prints the Congressional Record—the official record of the proceedings, debates, and activities of Congress.

To keep America informed digitally, we allow users to subscribe to email newsletters by topic and are also now on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare and Yelp.

GPO Publications about shared American experiences

Here are some of my favorite Federal publications GPO has published that document significant shared American experiences over the past century. Do you remember when and how you learned of these events?

What are some of the significant national experiences that you will never forget and how did you learn about them and share them with others?

We would love to hear from you!

 

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for marketing the US Government Online Bookstore (Bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


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