Barack Obama Law National Security Politics The War on Terrorism

Closed-Door Hearings

Last week, at a closed-door Intelligence Committee hearing, Republican members claim they were told “the truth that enhanced interrogation of detainees is effective.” The members did not offer details as to what they learned – but by speaking about this, they clearly violated the closed-door policy. As Democrat Oversight and Investigations Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky said:

“I am absolutely shocked that members of the Intelligence committee who attended a closed-door hearing … then walked out that hearing — early, by the way — and characterized anything that happened in that hearing. My understanding is that’s a violation of the rules. It may be more than that.”

This reminds me of the recent controversies regarding Nancy Pelosi and the allegations of abuse of the Gang of Eight process. Wikipedia describes it:

[T]he President may elect to report instead to the Gang of Eight when he feels “it is essential to limit access” to information about a covert action.

They are all sworn to secrecy and there is no vote required.

In each of these circumstances, the power of legislators to do their job – and check the executive branch – is curtailed by secrecy. This is a situation crying for judicial oversight – or for political courage. Either immunity could be offered for Congressmen and -women – allowing them immunity from prosecution for what they reveal of classified information; or perhaps, they could create some judicial process to force classified information to be revealed.

This would help counteract the increasing trend to classify every document possible.

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