Keeping secrets -- or not

Waxman cites a "systematic failure to safeguard classified information at the White House."

Published April 23, 2007 6:22PM (EDT)

In a letter to former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman says he has evidence of a "systematic failure to safeguard classified information at the White House."

For a White House that prides itself on secrecy -- except when it doesn't -- the allegations Waxman is hearing from current and former White House Security Office employees are fairly startling. Among them: The White House ignored repeated complaints that employees had failed to safeguard classified materials, including complaints about an instance in which a White House official left the most highly classified of documents unattended in a hotel room in a foreign country; the White House denied security officers the right to make unannounced checks of offices designed to ensure compliance with security rules; and the leaders of the White House Security Office "habitually flouted basic security procedures and allowed other White House officials to do the same."

Waxman is asking Card to testify voluntarily about the problems the committee's investigators say they've unearthed, but the chairman seems to know what the answer will be already. "It would be regrettable," Waxman writes in closing, "if you were to resist responsible oversight of these alleged abuses and require the Committee to issue a subpoena to compel your attendance at a Committee hearing."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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