May 10, 2007

by Reb Yudel
Bush's Army to Congress: We're in Charge

Some people think that if everyone would just shut up, everything would be fine. You might think that four years and 3,000 dead Americans after "Mission Accomplished," the Republicans who have been running the Army would know better.

And you would be wrong:

Pentagon restricting testimony in Congress - The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon has placed unprecedented restrictions on who can testify before Congress, reserving the right to bar lower-ranking officers, enlisted soldiers, and career bureaucrats from appearing before oversight committees or having their remarks transcribed, according to Defense Department documents.

Robert L. Wilkie , a former Bush administration national security official who left the White House to become assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs last year, has outlined a half-dozen guidelines that prohibit most officers below the rank of colonel from appearing in hearings, restricting testimony to high-ranking officers and civilians appointed by President Bush.

The guidelines, described in an April 19 memo to the staff director of the House Armed Services Committee, adds that all field-level officers and enlisted personnel must be "deemed appropriate" by the Department of Defense before they can participate in personal briefings for members of Congress or their staffs; in addition, according to the memo, the proceedings must not be recorded.

Wilkie's memo also stipulated that any officers who are allowed to testify must be accompanied by an official from the administration, such as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his top-level aides.

Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress see the move as a blatant attempt to bog down investigations of the war. But veterans of the legislative process -- who say they have never heard of such guidelines before -- maintain that the Pentagon has no authority to set such ground rules.

The guidelines would not affect congressional subpoenas, which can compel anyone to appear before lawmakers. As a result, several lawmakers have pledged privately to use that power if the Pentagon's guidelines stymie their efforts to get information from specific sectors of the military.

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