Members Win Release of Iraq Document

Posted March 11, 2003 at 5:53pm

Responding to pressure from Congressional critics, the Bush administration has turned over to Congress the 12,000-page declaration made by Iraq to United Nations weapons inspectors last December.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), one of the most vocal opponents of a pre-emptive military strike against Iraq, claimed victory in forcing the administration to release the closely held report through the use of a rarely utilized House procedural motion. The Iraqi declaration, which has not been previously shared with Congress, was transferred from the State Department to the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee on March 7, Congressional sources said.

But Kucinich and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash), the authors of the “resolution of inquiry” which forced the transfer, will likely be barred from viewing the document because it is considered classified information.

Kucinich, McDermott and Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) have refused to sign an oath requiring confidentiality of classified material and under House procedures would be prohibited from viewing the classified Iraqi declaration.

The agreement to transfer the classified material was worked out between the State Department and House International Relations Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.).

Kucinich, McDermott and Stark have not participated in any of the classified briefings provided to lawmakers by members of the Bush administration because they have declined to sign the so-called secrecy oath.

“It is my understanding they may not have access to that material,” a senior GOP aide said, noting that McDermott’s refusal to sign the pledge is even more troubling because he has traveled to Baghdad and accepted a $5,000 contribution from an Iraqi-American businessman who some view as sympathetic to Saddam Hussein’s government.

“Any Member who signs the nondisclosure agreement can peruse the document,” a GOP aide said.

The “resolution of inquiry” procedure acts as a sort of super-Freedom of Information Act for Congress. When a lawmaker introduces such a resolution, which seeks documents from a federal agency, the rules of the House give the responsible Congressional committee 14 legislative days to act on seeking the information. If the committee doesn’t act on requesting the documents from the agency, the resolution can be taken directly to the House floor as a privileged matter.

“The House has exercised the right, from its earliest days, to call on the President and heads of departments for information. The first rule on the subject was adopted in 1820 for the purpose of securing greater care and deliberation in the making of requests,” according to the House Rules Manual.

The House International Relations Committee is scheduled to act on Kucinich’s resolution today in a scheduled markup. But the agreement to share documents was worked out by Hyde in response to Kucinich’s action, a Hyde spokesman said.

“This is a small step forward in obtaining information that the administration has deliberately withheld from the public and the Congress,” Kucinich said. “This administration has marched the nation, and the world, to the verge of war without revealing any evidence to this Congress or the American people to back up its war rhetoric. I will continue to oppose this unjustified war, and continue my efforts to ensure that this administration reveals evidence, to the public, it may have before its sends the young men and women of the Armed Force into battle. I believe Congress, and the American people, deserve nothing less.”