Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist regarding Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Wednesday briefing to members of the Senate:
December 12, 2005
The Honorable William H. Frist
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Frist:
Earlier today I received your letter informing me of your intent to disregard our normal, long-standing protocol for briefings of Senators by key Administration national security officials. Your unilateral decision to limit this Wednesday’s briefing by Secretary Rice to non-classified matters is regrettable and a disservice to all members of the Senate, our troops, and the American people.
As you should know, these important policy briefings have normally been conducted in a secure room in the U.S. Capitol so that members can engage in a full and frank discussion of any issue they deem important to our nation’s security and our troops. This Administration provides the Congress very few opportunities to question its policymakers and all aspect of its policies, especially when you consider we are a nation that has been at war for over four years. Under your proposal, the elected representatives of the American people would be denied the ability to fully and thoroughly question Secretary Rice, an official who is at the forefront of this nation’s efforts in Iraq and the war on terror.
Given this decision is so clearly at cross purposes with the goal of keeping members of Congress and their constituents informed, I can only conclude it was motivated by another reason, namely to protect the Administration and prevent it from being held accountable for its performance. For example, as a result of your decision, members of Congress will be unable to fully discuss the security situation in Iraq, including the changing nature of the threats faced by U.S. troops, the evolving face of the insurgency, and what steps the State Department is taking to convince Iraq’s neighbors to shut down the flow of foreign fighters and weapons into Iraq.
Your decision will also preclude members from engaging in the kind of far-reaching exchange on the Administration’s torture policies and alleged secret prisons, which press reports indicate the Secretary discussed at length with our European allies during her recent trip. It would be regrettable if foreign officials were in receipt of more information about the Administration’s policies on these matters than the American people’s elected representatives.
Therefore I once again renew my request, which had been previously communicated by my staff to your office, to have Secretary Rice hold a classified briefing with the Senate this Wednesday.
Please let me know how you plan to proceed.
CC: Secretary of State Rice