Congressman DeFazio Denied Access to Government Documents
By David Gutierrez
The Bush Administration shocked lawmakers and analysts two months ago when it denied a member of the House Homeland Security Committee permission to examine classified plans for maintaining the functioning of the government in the event of a major natural disaster or terrorist attack.
In order to alleviate concerns that the White House has plans for martial law, Representative Peter DeFazio, (D-OR), asked to see the plan for government continuity. As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, DeFazio has the required security clearance to view such a plan. In the past, he has entered what is known as a “bubble room” to view classified documents, and his requests have never been denied.
But in a break with tradition, DeFazio’s request, although initially approved, was later rejected. The congressman has not been informed who made the decision about his request, nor about the reason for it.
“We do not comment … on the process that this access entails,” said White House spokesperson Trey Bohn. “It is important to keep in mind that much of the information related to the continuity of government is highly classified.”
“I just can’t believe that they’re going to deny a member of Congress the right of reviewing how they plan to conduct the government of the United States after a significant terrorist attack,” DeFazio said. “I would think that would be relevant to any member of Congress, let alone a member of the Homeland Security Committee.”
“Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right,” he said.
Political scientist Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, referred to the decision as “inexplicable,” saying he could not think of “one good reason” for it.
“I find it inexplicable and probably reflective of the usual knee-jerk overextension of executive power that we see from this White House,” Ornstein said.