Friday, February 09, 2007

All House Members Given Blanket Access To Full Iraq NIE

Members of congress have always had the ability -- upon request -- to read NIEs at one of the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs) on Capitol Hill.

Perhaps not surprisingly, few ever take advantage of the opportunity.

This time, they do not need to request permission to view the document. I doubt if more than a handful of members who are not on the Intelligence Committee will bother.

To the surprise of the Bush administration, the House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously Wednesday night to allow all 435 House members to see the classified version of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq sent to the White House last week. The report is classified in part because it contains information about sources and methods used in intelligence-gathering. ...

In announcing the vote to allow all members access to the classified portion of the NIE, the committee said those examining it "will be required to review the document in the Committee's secure offices in the Capitol and sign a secrecy oath." The members will not be allowed to leave with notes, congressional sources said.

The White House was not informed or consulted about the decision. Such access for members is rare but not unprecedented. The document had been made available to members of several committees with jurisdiction over the intelligence community, but other lawmakers would have needed to request permission to read it. The committee had received written requests from one Republican and one Democrat, plus some other informal inquires, and decided it would be better to allow blanket access instead of voting on each request, congressional sources said.


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