Oversight

•House Judiciary Committee: (7/30) — Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), along with subcommittee Chairmen Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), wrote Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting details on the “massive electronic databases” reportedly involved with the National Security Agency’s terrorist surveillance program.

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The New York Times
and The Washington Post reported July 29 that several Justice Department officials threatened to resign in 2004 during a dispute over the surveillance program. The lawmakers expressed concern that classified material may have been leaked in an effort to corroborate Gonzales’s previously controversial testimony.

“[It] is imperative that all members of the House Judiciary Committee be fully apprised of these controversial, and possibly unlawful, programs, and any related programs,” they wrote. “It is difficult to craft appropriate legislative responses unless we have all of the relevant facts concerning these programs.”

House Committee on Homeland Security: (7/27) — Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Reps. Chris Carney (D-Pa.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) sent a letter to Frances Townsend, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, calling for the White House to provide classified portions of a document related to federal emergency continuity plans.

According to the letter, the White House had initially agreed to provide the document, part of Homeland Security Presidential Directive-20, for review before later reconsidering and rejecting the request — a move that the lawmakers deemed “as troubling as it is shocking.”

“I can’t see any reason or justification to deny a member of Congress the right to review how the administration intends to conduct the government of the United States after a catastrophic national emergency,” said DeFazio, chairman of the Subcommittee on Management, Investigations and Oversight. “I thought this was a routine request, but this makes you wonder.”

“Once again the Bush administration has shown a lack of respect for this Congress, but more importantly, they have displayed a lack of respect for the Constitution by not recognizing the equality of the three branches of government,” Thompson said. “The denial of the administration to provide this vital national security document raises serious concerns...”