Congressman denied access to plan for continuing government after terrorist attack

Possibly relevant to this thread from May 2007, which quickly got out of hand and remained so for four pages until it was locked. Take a lesson and cave modem.

Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), in response to constituents who were “worried there was a conspiracy buried in the classified portion of a White House plan for operating the government after a terrorist attack,” asked the WH for permission to review the plan in a secure Capitol “bubbleroom,” as he is allowed to do as a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

The WH denied him permission, and won’t say why.

  1. Can anyone think of any good justification for the WH’s actions here?

  2. Anyone care to speculate what’s in the plan that they won’t let even a member of the Homeland Security Committee see?

  3. What’s better for a tinfoil hat – Glad or Reynolds?

It sounds like the problem may be DeFazio is doing this to “assuage the fears of constituents.” It doesn’t sound like he can be particularly trusted to keep the classified information classified. I think the White House would be acting inappropriately if it gave classified information to someone who had a high probability of not keeping their mouth shut. (Let’s presume that all the wise-ass remarks about Scooter and Plame have already been said, I already see them coming so there’s no reason to waste your finger-muscles typing them out.)

Keep in mind that documents of this nature have been standard since at least the Eisenhower Administration. In fact the existence of continuity of government plans used to be classified, meaning not only was the text of the plan classified, but the information that the plan existed was classified. Eventually the public got wind of it, and conspiracy theorists got their teeth into it and these plans have been ripe for wild conspiracy theories since the 1960s. This links to many such documents and information about such documents that were issued by prior administrations, most of these documents remain classified in their entirety to this very day.

It is in fact unusual that the portion that the White House did release, was released. To my knowledge the Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan administrations never made any part of their plans public during their administrations, and most of their directives remain classified to this day.

As I said in another thread we had about this very thing, even if the classified portion said, “That part in the unclassified portion where we said this plan will be implemented in accordance with existing law was a ruse and is invalidated. This plan actually names George Walker Bush Emperor of the United States.” It would lack any legal authority to do such a thing.

It’d have as much legal authority as me declaring myself Emperor on a Dunkin Donuts Napkin.

Merely serving on the House Armed Services Committee does not give aRepresentaive access to every top-secret military plan, file, and folder.

I imagine the same holds true for the House Homeland Security Committee.

In your OP, you say he:

The use of the dangling modifier contributes to a bit of imprecision. Do you mean that, because he is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, he is allowed to ask the White House for permission to review the plan in a secure Capitol “bubbleroom?” Or do you mean that because he is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, he is allowed to review the plan?

If the latter, what is the precise basis for that claim?

I should note I did say this in a related thread:

So it is upsetting that he has been denied access, but in this particular case I think if the administration gives a good reason, I’d be okay with it. It is troubling they have given no reason at all. DeFazio’s motivation is probably coming from the right place, but I don’t think it was appropriate for him to publicly say to constituents he was going to vet these documents to insure their fears are misplaced. It could produce a situation where even what he doesn’t say about said documents could divulge classified information.

  1. Can anyone think of any good justification for the WH’s actions here?


  1. Anyone care to speculate what’s in the plan that they won’t let even a member of the Homeland Security Committee see?

Maybe this DeFazio guy is not on the list for a room in the bunker?

  1. What’s better for a tinfoil hat – Glad or Reynolds?

Reynolds. You don’t want to be making yourself a new hat every day. Glad just doesn’t hold up as well.

Sorry, best I can do. I was going by the linked story, which is itself ambiguous on whether a HHSC member is allowed to see the material or only to ask for it:

It says he can “examine classified material,” but not that he can examine any classified material he requests. Can he? I don’t know.

He could, if he found nothing, tell them, “Nothing to see here” with a straight face.

If he finds something of genuine interest – that opens the highly debatable question of whether his duty is to keep the info classified or shout it from the rooftops.

But it’s not a question of first impression, is it? I mean, the intelligence committees deal with this kind of thing all the time. Nevertheless, they have security clearances and are allowed to see classified info regularly. Presumably there are established rules and protocols – of Congress, not of the CIA or NSA.

Things like this have been discussed here before. Little understood by the general public, but a huge concern to the federal government, is the notion that the doctrine of separation of powers means that the legislative branch may not dictate most aspects of the emergency plan of the executive branch, and vice versa. A similar situation exists with regard to the plans of the judiciary and of state, local, and tribal governments, all of which have their own spheres of authority.

Provision exists for coordination of the different plans, but the executive branch plan may not intrude on that on the legislative branch where it has authority.

We know from our Cold War history that there was a fully equipped bunker for years under the Greenbriar Resort, and that that bunker was for the exclusive use of the legislative branch in case of a serious emergency. That gives credence to these general arrangements, even if details are not known.

I can answer that: no. No random member of Congress is permitted unfettered access to any classified material he requests.

Certain members, by virtue of their committee positions, are entitled to complete access in given areas.

A former boss of mine went on to become the chief of staff for a famous, and long-serving, Congressman. I was visited by DISA agents for an interview as part of his clearance process. In talking with him later, he laid out (in very general terms) the reason for the clearance and the general methods by which House and Senate members are given access to stuff.

This was years before Homeland Security ever existed, of course, but I am quite confident that mere membership on that committee does not confer unfettered browsing privileges to all classified material under government control.

No one is asking for permission to go on a fishing expedition here. I would guess that members of this committee have access to highly classified documents (some of the budgets, for instance) as part of their duties.

I don’t know the details of how committee assignments are made, but they are made by party leadership. I’d imagine that only Congresspeople with the appropriate clearances get put on the committee. Or are they stupid?

I’d also imagine that the executive branch would have ownership, or at least significant input, on these plans. There obviously needs to be coordination, and I’d suspect the military would be involved to provide protection. I wonder if any member of Congress has had a chance to review the plans.

I have a hard time understanding why a member of this committee not see an important piece of the homeland security puzzle. I’m assuming it is just administration snottiness, and that there actually isn’t anything to hide, but this kind of thing creates conspiracy theories.