HOUSE RESOLUTION 572 -- HON. ROBERT H. MICHEL (Extension of Remarks - September 18, 1992)
HON. ROBERT H. MICHEL
in the House of Representatives
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1992
- Mr. MICHEL. Mr. Speaker, today is a sad day for the House as an institution and for the American people. By a party-line vote of 216-150, the Democratic Members of the House voted to adopt without debate their leadership's stonewalling tactics to prevent any debate on a privileged resolution raising a very serious issue facing the House. That serious issue is the repeated unauthorized disclosure of classified information by a senior Democratic Member, the chairman of the House Banking Committee.
- It is a sad thing to have to raise this matter on the House floor. However, the conduct of a Member of this body, who has repeatedly and willfully engaged in the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive classified information in this Chamber and in the Congressional Record, is plainly inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the rules of the House. On May 15, 1992, in an effort to keep this above politics, I quietly wrote Speaker Foley about my serious concerns over these unauthorized disclosures, urging prompt and decisive action. I got no response. Then, on July 24, 1992, I again wrote to the Speaker. I reemphasized my concerns, and noted that since my previous letter, there had been more unauthorized disclosures, and those were drawn from very sensitive and highly classified CIA documents. Those disclosures prompted letters to House leaders from the Director of Central Intelligence, Robert Gates, and Adm. William Studeman, who was temporarily serving as the Acting Director of Central Intelligence. Again I got no response, and still the Democratic leadership took no apparent action to address this worsening problem. We and the American people have been patient too long. Action on this privileged resolution was regrettably necessary, and I strongly support its sponsor, the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Combest] for calling it up on the floor today.
- The Banking Committee chairman's actions damage the ability of our Nation to conduct sensitive diplomatic and intelligence activities abroad. The American people understand that, even if the Democratic majority in the House tries silently to ignore that fact. The American people witnessed how, with the aid of sensitive diplomatic and intelligence cooperation between the United States and other countries, an international coalition was built to halt and redress Iraq's naked, armed aggression against Kuwait. Americans also understand how interdependent we are with other nations and the consequent need for secret, cooperative diplomatic and intelligence activities in the fight against the seamless web of international terrorism.
- The irresponsible conduct of the chairman of the Banking Committee in unilaterally disclosing classified information on U.S. diplomatic relations and intelligence collection has a dangerously chilling effect on our Government's ability to get other governments to share intelligence information and cooperate in sensitive diplomatic and intelligence activities. It also gives those hostile to U.S. interests candid insights into our sensitive internal counsels and the extent of our knowledge of some of the secrets of those who wish us ill.
- When we countenance a Member of this House, time and again, improperly disclosing classified information despite the House rules for handing such information, in executive session, in committee, or in secret session on the House floor, other countries must weigh the risk to their equities of diplomatic and intelligence cooperation with us. If intelligence shared with us may be made available to hundreds of Members of this body, anyone of whom may unilaterally insert it in the Congressional Record whenever he pleases, our allies will be forced to conclude that the risks to the lives and safety of their intelligence officers and agents in place are simply too great.
- More importantly, this conduct gravely undermines the public reputation and dignity of the House and the integrity of our legislative oversight proceedings. In the wake of the House Bank and Post Office scandals, when public respect for the House as an institution is at an alltime low, the majority's parliamentary shenanigans in tabling this resolution without debate is perhaps the worst example yet of their efforts to cover up their leadership ignoring serious improper conduct in the House.
- Debating United States policy on Iraq is perfectly legitimate, but no individual Member has the right to unilaterally disclose classified information in an attempt, and a frankly unconvincing one in this instance, to make his case. If a Member truly needs to draw on classified information for legitimate legislative oversight and debate, there are rules and procedures for doing so while taking into account the important national interest in protecting classified information.
- First, a committee of jurisdiction may go into executive session to use classified information for a full and free debate of a policy issue. Based on the outcome of those executive session proceedings, the committee may decide what legislative action, if any, should be taken. The gentleman from Texas apparently either chose not to utilize this procedure in the Banking Committee or was unsatisfied with the outcome.
- If a Member believes it important to draw on classified information to debate an issue on the House floor, he can seek declassification of the information by the originating agency. It appears that the gentleman from Texas has rarely made such requests, and on those two or three occasions, has either disclosed the classified information involved almost contemporaneously with the request, or well before declassification occurred. More often than not, classified information was apparently disclosed with no effort having been made to seek its declassification.
- Ultimately, if a Member truly believes an issue is important enough that the House should consider it, and any of the information he deems necessary for debate remains classified, the Member can invoke rule XXIX. The House can then consider the matter, and the classified information involved, fully and freely in a secret session. Pursuant to this rule, the House may vote to make all or part of the transcript of those secret proceedings public.
- When a Member willfully takes it upon himself to be the sole arbiter of whether to disclose sensitive classified information provided by various executive branch agencies to a committee of the House in the good faith expectation that it would be protected from unauthorized disclosure, that Member flaunts the rules of the House and undermines the integrity of our legislative oversight functions.