Corruption in the Iraqi government–it’s classified information. So says the State Department.
In preparation for a September 27 hearing on corruption within the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Representative Henry Waxman, who chairs the House government oversight and reform committee, sent a request–and then a subpoeana–to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for documents and witnesses. He wanted the State Department to turn over various documents, including a copy of a secret report prepared by the Baghdad embassy that details rampant corruption within the Iraqi government. He also demanded that the State Department make available to his investigators three officials in the department’s Office of Accountability and Transparency who have worked on the issue of Iraqi corruption. [UPDATE: The hearing has been postponed until October 4.]
The State Department refused to turn over the documents and said no to the interview requests. Then it slightly changed its tune. Joel Starr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, notified Waxman that his committee could interview the State Department officials, but anything they had to say about corruption within the Iraqi government would be classified–meaning Waxman could not disclose that information to the public.
How can information about criminal waste and fraud in another government be considered a state secret in the United States?
On September 25, an irritated Waxman fired off a letter to Rice, detailing his exchange with her department:
The State Department is taking the position that investigators for the Committee may speak with these individuals, but the investigators may not ask them questions that could embarrass the Maliki government unless the Committee agrees to refrain from any public discussion of their answers. State Department officials explained that any information about corruption within the Maliki government must be treated as classified because public discussions could undermine U.S. relations with the Maliki government.
This absurd position was confirmed in an e-mail sent to Committee staff….In the e-mail, the State Department provided a description of the “redlines” that its employees may not cross in unclassified interviews scheduled….According to the State Department, the following information is now classified:
Broad statements/assessments which judge or characterize the quality of Iraqi governance or the ability/determination of the Iraqi government to deal with corruption, including allegations that investigations were thwarted/stifled for political reasons;
Statements/allegations concerning actions by specific individuals, such as the Prime Minister or other GOI [Government of Iraq] officials, or regarding investigations of such officials.