Arrogant Hypocrisy of Rubber Stamp Republican Congress

Sunday July 2, 2006

Hi folks. Last week the Republican Leadership in the House of Representatives passed a resolution, H Res 895, criticizing the New York Times for reporting on a covert government surveillance program that monitors bank transactions of All Americans. The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal also reported about the program.

This resolution is the very embodiment of arrogant hypocrisy. It is a bill that theoretically stands against leaks, but comes six years into an Administration that has always been willing to leak even the most sensitive information if it thought it would benefit it politically.

It is the height of irony to think that when the Administration sought to silence critics of its pre-Iraq war intelligence claims, it chose to leak the classified identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent, as well as previously classified components of a national security estimate, to the New York Times.

But it did. And it did so willingly.

Where were the resolutions of protest from this Majority during that scandal?

Where was the outrage when Valerie Plame, a CIA operative and a national security asset, as well as all of her contacts in the intelligence community, were put in danger?

There was none – because Republicans had deemed that leak to be permissible.

So Republicans in Washington are in desperate need of someone to blame for their own inability to, once again, keep something that was supposed to be secret…a secret. What is truly appalling about this resolution is that the Administration itself had spoken time and again of its efforts to investigate fund transfers between terrorist groups. Here is an article from the Boston Globe that ran yesterday reporting how the fund tracking program (monitoring international financial transactions handled by an industry-owned cooperative in Belgium called the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Communication, or SWIFT, which is controlled by nearly 8,000 institutions in 20 countries) was no secret:

But the White House has also been very public about its efforts to track the overseas banking transactions of Americans and other foreign nationals.

Less than two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Bush signed an executive order calling for greater cooperation with foreign entities to monitor money that might be headed to terrorist groups. The executive order was posted on the White House website.

The document called for ``cooperation with, and sharing information by, United States and foreign financial institutions as an additional tool to enable the United States to combat the financing of terrorism.”

Richard Newcomb , the head of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control at the time, later publicly credited the president for enabling US law enforcement and intelligence agencies to nab suspected terrorists, including followers of ``Hambali, ” Al Qaeda’s leader in Southeast Asia. The New York Times report said Hambali’s capture in 2003 came with the aid of information gleaned from SWIFT.

So this story had already been public information in one capacity or another – perhaps even fully public – since 2001. But for reasons that have nothing to do with policy but everything to do with ugly, partisan politics, this week the Republicans decided that nothing less than a national security breach had occurred, and that the consequences for our country were profound. They have even proposed revoking the New York Times’ access to the Congress.

In other words, the Majority has given itself the sole right to decide which classified information is truly secret, and which is ripe to be used for partisan politics. And with this bill, it is giving itself the sole right to decide who will be punished for writing about classified information, and who will not.

I guess at a time when the Republicans have utterly failed to stand up for all Americans, failing to raise the minimum wage, failing to renew the Voting Rights Act, sneaking in cynical legislation to repeal tax cuts for Paris Hiltons of the world, the Republicans need to change the subject.

Six months before our mid-term elections, Republicans are falling back on the one play that has worked for them, time and again.

They are sowing fear in the hearts of the American people, and labeling any individual or organization that doesn’t take its marching orders from the White House as a threat to our nation.

These rubber stamping Republican leadership in Congress should perhaps look in the mirror and see themselves when they want to talk about incompetence.

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