Can Congress handle the truth?

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The battles over what war-time powers the Bush administration can and cannot assert have been slogged out mostly in the courts. But they should be happening in Congress. The New York Times reports today that the Bush administration has been withholding information about the CIA’s detainment operations, even from members of Congress. “Since the detention program was established in 2002, officials said, the C.I.A. detention effort has been classified as a ‘special access program,’ a category that puts it off limits even to most of those with top secret security clearances.” That has effectively limited the number of members of Congress who are in-the-know to about eight people.

You might be tempted to throw up your hands and say, “That’s the Bush administration for you, keeping everyone in the dark.” But in fact, it looks like Congress itself could be doing a whole lot more to oversee the White House. As Phillip Carter points out, Congress doesn’t seem to want to gain access to these administration secrets. “Bottom line: the President has the information and the authority here; Congress has the money. Whether Congress leverages its appropriations authority to exercise meaningful oversight over executive operations in the war on terrorism remains an open question.” Similarly, GWU’s Center for National Security Strategy’s Kate Martin notes that Congress “shares with the President the constitutional prerogative to declassify information.”

So there are a few possibilities: 1) the Republicans leadership is actively preventing anyone from finding out what the Bush administration is concealing; 2) Congress is just too busy doing other things; 3) Congress just doesn’t really want to know what’s going on in the CIA’s detention centers. I’d wager it’s a combination of all three.

THE TRUTH...

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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