Lawmaker accuses Bush of secrecy over Iraq deal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government is refusing to make public the security pact it has signed with Iraq, even though it has already been published in full in an Iraqi newspaper, a congressional hearing was told on Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were holding a closed briefing for U.S. House of Representatives members on the pact signed on Monday that sets a 2011 deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq.
Rep. Bill Delahunt, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations and Human Rights, before the closed briefing called it "insulting and an after-thought," after the Bush administration earlier rebuffed calls for Congress to be consulted during year-long negotiations on the agreement.
The administration has said it will not seek congressional approval for the deal. It has been in a hurry to finalize the pact, which Iraqi lawmakers still must approve, before the U.N. mandate under which U.S. troops operate expires on December 31.
Delahunt, who has urged President George W. Bush to renew the U.N. mandate rather than sign a bilateral agreement with Iraq, held the eighth in a series of hearings on the Status of Forces Agreement.
He said the Bush administration had turned down an invitation to attend the open hearing, saying it was a "sensitive time." Experts testifying before his subcommittee were forced to rely on an unofficial English translation of the security deal.
"Even now the National Security Council has requested that we do not show this document to our witnesses or release it to the public. Now that's incredible -- meantime the Iraqi government has posted this document on its media website," Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat, said.