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Spencer Ackerman at TPMmucraker has a story up about a letter sent today (pdf) from Waxman to Rice.  

That letter details incredible steps being taken by the State Department to protect Blackwater, misinform America and thoroughly disenfranchise Congress. Foremost is that Blackwater will be withholding documents from Waxman's committee at the request of Rice's State Department.

Read Spencer, read the letter and/or read below.  

Waxman gives the short and simple summary before proceeding to detail and he highlights three areas of concern: (i) Iraqi government corruption; (ii) interference in the Congressional Blackwater investigation; and (iii) information relating to political reconciliation in Iraq.   The short version of the problems:

First, Committee staff were informed yesterday that State Department officials with direct knowledge of corruption within the Maliki government would not be allowed to provide the Committee with "assessments which judge or characterize the quality of Iraqi governance or the ability/determination of the Iraqi government to deal with comrption" unless the Committee agreed to treat this information as classified and withhold it from the public.

Second, Blackwater has informed the Committee that a State Department official directed Blackwater not to provide documents relevant to the Committee's investigation into the
company's activities in Iraq without the prior written approval of the State Department.

Third, the Committee staff were informed that you have refused to testify at any hearing called by this Committee to examine the progress of political reconciliation in Iraq, the impact of corruption in Iraq, and the Blackwater incident.

All pretty unbelievable.

Waxman goes on to detail interaction between his staff and two State Dept. employees, Vincent Foulk and Christopher Griffith.  These two worked in - I kid you not - State's Office of Accountability and Transparency.  It would be hard to make this stuff up.  So what happens when Congressional staff ask some questions about, oh, say, Accountability or maybe, um, Transparency?  

First off, State refuses to allow the employees to talk to Waxman. Then, State relents. Kinda.  It says - oh, Congress can ask them questions, as long as they are not questions which might embarass Maliki's government.  Actually - Rice goes so much further.  She agrees that we don't live in a dictatorship and Congress will actually be allowed to ask questions where the answer might not be rosey.  It's just that before the questions are answered, Congress has to agree to keep those answers ultra super duper secret.  

... any information about corruption within the Maliki govemment must be treated as classified because public discussions could undermine U.S. relations with the Maliki government

So Waxman logically goes through all the things that cannot be asked without the information being classified (even questions like whether Maliki himself is involved in corruption and whether corruption is funding the insurgency) and raises the fact that it seems as if Amb Crocker would have had to have violated those "limits" when he testified.  Not so, says State, bc when it comes to the wash, rinse, repeat cycle of Crocker's testimony:

State Department officials responded that those statements were not classified because they would not complicate the State Department's relationship with the Maliki government.

 

So get that straight.  If State Dept employees are allowed to honestly answer Congressional questions, the answers must be kept classified, bc they won't look good.  But the info that Crocker gave publically to Congress - - well, that didn't bother to include any of the bad (and therefor classified) info.

Unbelievable.  I know there need to be other words, but "unbelievable" keeps telling me that it's not done being used yet.  

Waxman goes on to talk about an attempt to interview Foulk, under State's guidelines.  Waxman's staff tried simply reading a quote from Rice about Maliki and asking if Foulk agreed - to which Foulk replied that, ...he could not answer this question under the ground rules established by the State Departmentbecause his opinion would be considered classified

Waxman mentions over 28,000 troops wounded, 450 billion dollars in expenditures and the deaths on Bush and Rice's hands (ok, the hands part is my reference - I just hope Bolton has that picture in his collection) of over 3790 troops and says Congress and the American people are entitled to know about Iraqi corruption.

I'm waiting for the place where State and DOJ send a joint response, telling Waxman that his statement of facts about Bush's vanity war that are embarassing to Bush are "classified" and Waxman may be hauled off at any time by loyal Bushies in the DOJ who "take care" of that kind of thing.  

Anyway -  Waxman moves on to Blackwater and if you thought it couldn't get more unbelievable, it does.

Apparently when Waxman sought information from Blackwater, the company's response was primarily to supply a version of  the same form letter the RNC has used for emails request, with minor variations.  Blackwater claims it doesn't have to turn over anything unless and until DOS says it should and in support attaches a letter from a contracting officer at the State Dept that says:

"I hereby direct Blackwater to make no disclosure of the documents or information" sought by the Committee without written authorization from the State Department.

Well, Rahm Emmanuel and Nancy Pelosi will put an end to that kind of thing, won't they!  What's that?  Oh.  I didn't know.  I forgot to watch Rahm and the Amazing Nancy - replacing prestidigitation with prezimpunityauthorization.

Finally, Waxman tries to figure out when Condi will come see his committee.  He points out that all the military has said over and over that there is no military solution - just a diplomatic one.  So howz about the diplomat coming and giving up some skinny on how things are going?  

Well, despite asking nicely:

Last night, however, your [Rice's]staff informed the Committee that you are "unavailable" for such a hearing. The only rationale offered by your staff was some unspecified "other interest" in having you testify elsewhere on Capitol Hill

I'm thinking maybe in critical import/tax reform hearing on why America needs to grant dollar for dollar itemized deductions on Ferragamo purchases.

So at pretty close to closing, Waxman state:

I appreciate that you may not want to answer questions about political reconciliation, corruption in Iraq, and Blackwater. But that is not a legitimate basis for refusing to appear before the principal oversight committee in the House about matters within your purview as Secretary of State.

Wanna bet Henry?

You have to wonder what kind of shoe sale Rice clued Pelosi in on for the Speaker to become so adamantly against any Congressional oversight.

Update:  Per Fishoutof water's comment below, State has informed Blackwater that maybe they should think about turning those docs over after all.

I think this is where someone needs to insert "heh"

Originally posted to Mary2002 on Tue Sep 25, 2007 at 04:12 PM PDT.

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