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.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

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