Keeping Congress in the dark


Geraldine Sealey
April 20, 2004 8:14PM (UTC)

Did the White House break the law when it used money Congress earmarked for the war in Afghanistan and counterterrorism to fund his secret war planning for the Iraq invasion, as Bob Woodward describes in "Plan of Attack"?

Democratic congressman David Obey wants to know, and other ticked-off members of Congress who feel lied to by the White House are likely to follow suit.

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In a statement, Obey said: "If Mr. Woodward's book is accurate, it is clear that once again the Administration has declined to cooperate with those who are trying to cooperate with them. The Administration owes Congress a full, detailed and immediate accounting."

"Furthermore, if this is all true, it is ironic that the President was surreptitiously authorizing expenditures to begin a plan for war at the very same time he was resisting bipartisan Congressional efforts to provide desperately needed funds for homeland security, to make sure Americans were not vulnerable to further attacks."

The Center for American Progress says the whole affair smells like Iran-Contra and looks quite illegal. From today's Progress Report: "A close look at the two supplemental Appropriations bills that passed between 9/11 and July 2002 when the secret transfer took place shows that both bills mandate the White House to inform Congress if money is moved. The Emergency Supplemental Act passed on 9/14/01 specifically instructs the president to 'consult with the chairmen and ranking minority members of the Committees on Appropriations prior to the transfer' of any funds."

"The president actually told the American public that the money would be used for those purposes, saying the bill would be used 'to rebuild our communities and meet the needs of our military' in its operations against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He said nothing about Iraq. Similarly, while the summer 2002 supplemental bill allows the administration to transfer 'up to $275 million' in unused money within the Pentagon budget, it requires the president to notify Congress within 15 days of moving money. So far, the administration has not produced a shred of evidence that it followed these laws and informed Congress. As Woodward said, 'Congress, which is supposed to control the purse strings, had no real knowledge or involvement, had not even been notified that the Pentagon wanted to reprogram money.'"


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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