A congressional committee has rejected an attempt by a Democratic lawmaker to force the Bush administration to release intelligence information it used to justify military action in Iraq. The Republican-led House International Relations Committee voted unfavorably along party lines on a "Resolution of Inquiry" proposed by Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, saying other investigations made it redundant.
In early June, Mr. Kucinich announced he would use a rarely-employed procedure to force the administration to release all intelligence it had on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
However, since then the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has already begun its own inquiry involving classified information. A similar inquiry is underway in the Senate.
During Tuesday's consideration, the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Republican Henry Hyde, argued this made the resolution unnecessary. "Collecting the same documents would be a waste of time and taxpayer's money," he said. "It is in no one's interest, least of all this committee, to collect a second set of intelligence documents."
Mr. Kucinich, who is a Democratic candidate for president in 2004, was not present for the session. However, other Democrats spoke in support, arguing that the committee could not go on record simply rejecting the resolution.
Gary Ackerman, a Democrat from New York, said the issue went beyond duplication of effort to the larger questions being asked about how the Bush administration justified its military action in Iraq.
"I'm troubled by the fact that these intelligence reports that conclusively, according to everybody, said this is what the case was and asked us and the American people to swallow it whole," said Congressman Ackerman, "then suddenly switched to other arguments as soon as we were in the war and that was taken care of, we can now talk about democracy, and administration changing and democracy-building and all those other things the administration is well-known for supporting."
But Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the House intelligence committee is the best place to conduct the probe. "The information on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs are not foreign policy information, but rather some of our most highly-sensitive intelligence materials. The examination of such information should be in the hands of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence," he said.
A resolution reported unfavorably to the full House of Representatives means it will not be taken up by the full chamber unless Mr. Kucinich presses the issue and requests it be placed on the House schedule.
Even if the international relations committee had given a favorable recommendation to Mr. Kucinich's resolution, the congressman is barred from seeing classified documents because he has refused to sign an "oath of non-disclosure."