Congressman calls secret House session a "trojan horse"
PETER'S NEW YORK, March 14, 2008--A Democratic congressman warned
the House of Representatives yesterday that a secret session of the
body, scheduled for yesterday evening, could be a "trojan horse" to
political objectives. Such sessions have only been convened a handful
of times in the history of the republic.
"You are asking us to undermine the very hallmark and foundation of our
free and open republic," Rep. David Scott (D-Georgia) told lawmakers in
a discussion on the House floor. "Is this not a political ploy?, Is
this not a Trojan Horse?" Scott asked his colleagues before the secret
session was to be convened.
The session was called by Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), who insisted
that his purpose was to raise some issues that "should not be discussed
in a general session." Blunt indicated that the material he intended to
share with the Congress was not top secret, but that he wanted the
closed session because it "does relate to some of the most sensitive
procedures and techniques in this country."
But Scott warned that the secrecy of the session had the effect of
undermining the "hallowed" institution of the Congress, noting that
people "have spilled their blood" for the principles of openness that
are the foundation of American democracy. Previous use of secret
sessions, he said, did not reach the bar in which the information
revealed was shown to be vital to the Congressional discussions at the
time. He warned that use of such sessions could "undermine the very
fabric of our country."
Although both Blunt and Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland)
tried to assuage his doubts, Scott remained skeptical. "Foremost in all
of our minds is the security of the United States of America and
foremost in our minds is that we do that in the context of
the foundations of our country, which is freedom and openness," Scott
concluded. "We walk a
very delicate balance," he said "Let us hope we walk it right."
The House is debating a bill that would increase the ability of
intelligence services to conduct surveillance on so-called "terrorist"
suspects. A version of the bill already passed by the Senate would
remove some of the safeguards of judicial oversight contained in the
original Foreign Intelligence Service Act (F.I.S.A.) dating from the
1970s, and would grant immunity from prosecution for telecommunications
companies that had already cooperated with the Bush Administration's
illegal surveillance. The House is on its way to passing a bill that
would allow suits against companies that participated in the
surveillance, which had not been approved by a F.I.S.A court judge as
required by law.
Earlier in the day, President Bush gave a short address on the topic,
insisting that the House pass the Senate version of the bill. Bush said
that allowing the suits against the telecommunications companies would
"undermine the private sector's willingness to cooperate with the
intelligence community." He also claimed that it could result in the
disclosure of state secrets and reveal highly classified
information"that our enemies could use against us." He did not,
however, interject the possibility that if granted protection against
lawsuits, telecommunications companies could be emboldened to assist in
illegal surveillance against Americans.
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