109th Congress (2005-2006)
House Report 109-030
|Committee Reports for the 109th Congress|
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House of Representatives,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:07 a.m., in Room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., [Chairman of the Committee] presiding.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Now, pursuant to notice, I call up House Resolution 136, directing the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to transmit to the House of Representatives not later than 14 days after the date of the adoption of this resolution documents in possession of those officials relating to the security investigations and background checks relating to granting access to the White House of James D. Guckert, also known as Jeff Gannon, for purposes of markup and move its--report it adversely to the House. Without objection, the resolution will be considered as read and open for amendment at any time.
[The resolution, H. Res. 136, follows:]
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman?
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from Michigan.
Mr. CONYERS. I would strike the requisite number of words.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. CONYERS. And I would like to point out to the Members of the Committee that this resolution of inquiry is brought under the rules of the House of Representatives and mandates that we determine how to dispose of the matter and that it cannot be ignored or passed over within the number of days that the Chairman has correctly stated. We're here because of the Jeff Gannon, phony reporter in the White House issue. It defies credibility that a reporter operating under an alias, who couldn't even get privileges in the House or Senate press gallery, could receive scores of consecutive White House day passes without the intervention of someone at the White House. Who? We do not know. And, further, the Administration will not tell us nor will they cooperate.
Now, there are Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists who are regularly turned down for White House press credentials, and yet a sham journalist working for a politically controlled media front operation could receive open-ended access to the White House press room because someone let him in.
We're here today because we have an Administration that has consistently refused cooperation, and we now have a Congress that under our rules imposed upon the Judiciary Committee a determination that we should investigate this most serious of ethical transgressions.
We are here because the Administration has either rejected or ignored every bona fide request for information concerning the so-called Jeff Gannon. On February 9, the gentlelady from New York, Louise Slaughter, asked the White House in writing about this. Ignored.
On February 10, the gentlelady from New York and I posed the question to the Secret Service and received a non-responsive response.
On February 15, the gentlelady from New York and I filed a Freedom of Information request with the Department of Homeland Security and again no response.
In light of this, we have no choice but to ask our distinguished Committee on the Judiciary to assist us in this job and request the materials from the Administration, simply the information, because they are--because others in Government are simply unwilling to give us the cooperation. And we cannot tolerate phony news set-ups in the Administration, the purchasing of news from columnists, or anything that takes Federal money and uses it for political or propagandistic purposes. Taxpayers don't want their money used that way, and neither do we. We can no longer tolerate paying reporters for opinions when we can't find funds for our job programs and our poverty programs. Americans don't want the White House press room to churn out press releases that reporters like Jeff Gannon plagiarize and report as their own.
So, in conclusion, what we have today is a Government that is ruled almost by one party, totally lacking in accountability, instead of a system of checks and balances. And if we don't investigate this matter thoroughly, impartially, and in a bipartisan sense, where and when will we draw the line? If we don't act now, when will there be someone to say enough is enough?
I plead with my Committee Members in the Judiciary to support this very plain but necessary and imperative resolution of inquiry, and I return my time, and I thank the Chairman of the Committee.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The Chair strikes the last word.
The Administration, in my opinion, has already substantially complied with the terms of this resolution by providing the information requested by it. There also appears to be ongoing competing investigations into the relationship between Mr. Guckert and the White House at the request of the Ranking Member himself.
On February 10, Representatives Conyers and Slaughter sent the Secret Service letter--a letter requesting similar information. The Secret Service requested its Office of Protective Operations to examine whether the Service deviated from established standards and procedures when granting Mr. Guckert access to the White House.
In a March 7 letter to the two Representatives, the Service stated that the OPO investigated their concern and found no evidence to suggest that Mr. Guckert received special treatment when obtaining access to the White House. The letter further stated that the Secret Service assessed Mr. Guckert utilizing the same criteria as those applied to all individuals seeking day pass access to White House briefings.
The Secret Service also indicated that it is solely responsible for the security of the White House complex. The letter informed our colleagues that those afforded access to the White House may use professional names that differ from their legal names, that the Secret Service, nevertheless, requires legal names be provided to receive access, and that Mr. Guckert used the pen name of Jeff Gannon.
The letter also stated that Mr. Guckert provided his legal name, Social Security number, and birth date for access and that Federal regulation requires the Secret Service to be guided solely by the principle of whether the applicant presents a potential source of physical danger to the President and/or the family of the President so serious as to justify his or her exclusion from White House press privileges, unquote. The letter concluded by stating that the Secret Service had determined that Mr. Guckert did not pose a physical danger to the President or his family.
In a March 8 press release, our colleagues did acknowledge that Mr. Guckert, whom they deemed `a conservative activist,' used his legal name when he applied for his day pass. The information already provided by the Secret Service provides a basis to adversely support this resolution. However, additional letters sent by the Ranking Member to the Comptroller General and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, provide additional reasons to adversely report the resolution in order to avoid interfering with those investigations.
Our colleagues requested Attorney Fitzgerald to include Mr. Guckert in the Valerie Plame investigation in two separate letters dated February 10 and February 23. The Plame criminal investigation stems from a 2003 article by syndicated columnist Robert Novak. The leak of Valerie Plame's name is currently under investigation by U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald.
Moreover, on February 23, our colleagues requested the GAO to expand on a January 11, 2005, request to investigate whether the Administration illegally used appropriated money to covertly advocate for seven different Administration programs. This letter requested GAO to examine whether the Administration violated the ban on prepackaged news stories by siphoning print stories to James D. Guckert.
Avoiding competing investigations is a common and well-founded reason that Committees have opposed resolutions of inquiry in the past. This Committee has previously reported such resolutions adversely for this precise reason, and I urge my colleagues to do so today.
I would reiterate the fact that the Administration has substantially complied with the request for information, and the sponsors of this resolution have requested Mr. Guckert be included in a criminal grand jury investigation and a GAO investigation. I urge Members to support the motion to report adversely.
I would like to introduce into the record a reprint of 31 Code of Federal Regulations Chapter 4, Part 409(1) relating to standards for security clearances that has been in the Code of Federal Regulations since June 22, 1978. Without objection, this information will be included.
[The information follows:]
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection, all Members' opening statements will appear in the record at this point.
Are there amendments? The gentleman from California.
Mr. BERMAN. Move to strike the last word.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Chairman, I think by definition the fact that this resolution of inquiry is before is confirmation of the fact that the people who requested the information, namely, the Ranking Member and the gentlelady from New York, did not receive answers to the questions they asked. Those specifically were who or what office was responsible for ultimately granting access to the White House, given the applicant passes, his background check, including who or what office asked the Secret Service to complete a background check on Mr. Guckert, specifically whether a single clearance lasts indefinitely or whether the applicant must reapply for each day pass, and how many times and on what days Mr. Guckert was cleared and who requested that clearance.
While the Secret Service has partially responded to the Ranking Member's request, the very specific questions related to the belief and the allegation that essentially a conservative activist was promoted by the White House to seek a clearance for being able to ask a question as an independent news reporters have not been answered, and those are the questions for which we and the sponsor of the resolution of inquiry and the Ranking Member are seeking information. And that's why this resolution should be adopted.
And may I just put in the record a copy of the letters dated February 10, February 23--two of February 23, and February 15 to Patrick Fitzgerald; to Patrick Fitzgerald again; to David Walker, Comptroller General, U.S. Government Accountability Office; and to the Honorable Tom Ridge--letters sent by Ranking Member Conyers and Ranking Member of Rules Louise Slaughter.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection.
Mr. BERMAN. Thank you.
[The material referred to follows:]
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. And without objection, the Chair will introduce into the record a reply dated March 7 to the Ranking Member, Mr. Conyers, and Representative Slaughter on this subject, signed by Conrad A. Everett, Deputy Assistant Director of the Secret Service.
[The material referred to follows:]
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Are there amendments, further amendments? The gentlewoman from Texas.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I'd like to strike the last word.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentlewoman is recognized for 5 minutes.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I recognize that there have been a number of initiatives taken by the White House to self-investigate, but I clearly believe that the level of violations that may be confronted with the actions regarding Mr. Gannon, sometimes known in news transcripts as James D. Guckert, known alternatively as a right-wing activist, with seemingly no press credentials, and access to the White House briefing room and Presidential press conferences, cries out for a House investigation.
I frankly believe that this is no less serious than what my colleagues thought the proceedings dealing with the Clinton impeachment were for them. This is a penetration of the White House, maybe a security breach, and I do not believe it can be answered with self-investigation.
First of all, it appears that this is a longstanding practice--that it has violated a longstanding practice of carefully screening contacts with the President. This special access not only raises security concerns, but calls into question the fundamental fairness of White House press corps. In fact, the favoritism bestowed on this fake reporter may even have violated Federal law. Mr. Guckert's efforts as a mouthpiece for the White House likely violated statutes banning the Administration from using appropriated money for propaganda purposes. We see what happened with a number of columnists who had been paid by Federal dollars to promote the Federal agenda.
In addition, Mr. Guckert has claimed that he had access to classified Central Intelligence Agency documents that revealed the undercover status of Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife. It's now been over a year and a half since Valerie Plame was maliciously ousted, her life destroyed, her profession destroyed, and we appear to be no closer and there seems to be no great interest on the part of the Administration in finding out who in the Administration played with her life for political purposes.
I believe this resolution by Mr. Conyers--and I applaud him and the gentlelady from New York for their evenhandedness in this resolution. But I believe this resolution may shed some light on whether Mr. Guckert, the White House go-to propagandist, also received classified information and from whom.
Mr. Chairman, we're in a time when homeland security cannot be taken for granted. We're now meeting and having hearings on how we can secure the homeland, but also, as we recently passed the intelligence reform bill of 2004, how we can be assured that there are no security breaches, while I believe that Mr. Gannon/Mr. Guckert is a crying example, a glaring example and cries out--a glaring example of security breach and cries out for resolution. This resolution that has been offered by Mr. Conyers is straightforward, simple, and to the point, and it allows this Judiciary Committee to do its job, that is, to rise above partisanship and to be bipartisan in ethics and in deserving and finding out the truth.
I hope my colleagues will enthusiastically support this resolution, for I believe that the danger that we put Valerie Plame in, the potential breach and leaks from the CIA documents, and the potential that someone else today is sitting in the White House equally disguised, with equally false documents, really cries out for us to do something.
Mr. CONYERS. Would the gentlelady yield?
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I'd be happy to yield to the distinguished----
Mr. CONYERS. I commend you for pointing out the international character of this inquiry. The safety of the country is involved if the person in question really has had access to CIA and information.
And I want to say that if this Committee doesn't support this resolution of inquiry, which only asks essentially who let Gannon in the White House--somebody in the White House let him in. If we don't want to know, then we become a part of this conspiracy to cover this matter up. But like most things around here, the truth will come out, and I thank the gentlelady for yielding.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Conyers, I thank you for your thoughtfulness. If we don't want to find out----
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.
Ms. JACKSON LEE- we have not done our job. I ask for support of the resolution of inquiry. I yield back.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Other amendments?
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The question is reporting the resolution adversely. A reporting quorum is present. Those in favor of reporting the resolution adversely will say aye.
The ayes appear to have it. The ayes have it and----
Mr. CONYERS. May we get a record vote on this resolution?
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. A rollcall will be ordered. This will be the last rollcall of the day, I hope. Those in favor of reporting the resolution adversely will, as your names are called, answer aye, those opposed, no, and the clerk will call the roll.
The CLERK. Mr. Hyde?
The CLERK. Mr. Coble?
Mr. COBLE. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Coble, aye. Mr. Smith?
Mr. SMITH OF TEXAS. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Smith, aye. Mr. Gallegly?
Mr. GALLEGLY. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Gallegly, aye. Mr. Goodlatte?
Mr. GOODLATTE. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Goodlatte, aye. Mr. Chabot?
Mr. CHABOT. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Chabot, aye. Mr. Lungren?
Mr. LUNGREN. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Lungren, aye. Mr. Jenkins?
Mr. JENKINS. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Jenkins, aye. Mr. Cannon?
Mr. CANNON. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Cannon, aye. Mr. Bachus?
Mr. BACHUS. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Bachus, aye. Mr. Inglis?
The CLERK. Mr. Hostettler?
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Hostettler, aye. Mr. Green?
Mr. GREEN. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Green, aye. Mr. Keller?
Mr. KELLER. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Keller, aye. Mr. Issa?
The CLERK. Mr. Flake?
Mr. FLAKE. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Flake, aye. Mr. Pence?
Mr. PENCE. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Pence, aye. Mr. Forbes?
Mr. FORBES. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Forbes, aye. Mr. King?
Mr. KING. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. King, aye. Mr. Feeney?
The CLERK. Mr. Franks?
Mr. FRANKS. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Franks, aye. Mr. Gohmert?
Mr. GOHMERT. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Gohmert, aye. Mr. Conyers?
Mr. CONYERS. No.
The CLERK. Mr. Conyers, no. Mr. Berman?
Mr. BERMAN. No.
The CLERK. Mr. Boucher?
The CLERK. Mr. Nadler?
The CLERK. Mr. Scott?
Mr. SCOTT. No.
The CLERK. Mr. Scott, no. Mr. Watt?
Mr. WATT. No.
The CLERK. Mr. Watt, no. Ms. Lofgren?
The CLERK. Ms. Jackson Lee?
Ms. JACKSON LEE. No.
The CLERK. Ms. Jackson Lee, no. Ms. Waters?
Ms. WATERS. No.
The CLERK. Ms. Waters, no. Mr. Meehan?
Mr. MEEHAN. No.
The CLERK. Mr. Meehan, no. Mr. Delahunt?
The CLERK. Mr. Wexler?
The CLERK. Mr. Weiner?
The CLERK. Mr. Schiff?
Mr. SCHIFF. No.
The CLERK. Mr. Schiff, no. Ms. Sanchez?
Ms. SANCHEZ. No.
The CLERK. Ms. Sanchez, no. Mr. Smith?
The CLERK. Mr. Van Hollen?
Mr. VAN HOLLEN. No.
The CLERK. Mr. Van Hollen, no. Mr. Chairman?
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Chairman, aye.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Members in the chamber who wish to cast or change their vote? The gentleman from California, Mr. Issa.
Mr. ISSA. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Issa, aye.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Inglis.
Mr. INGLIS. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Inglis, aye.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Further Members in the chamber who wish to cast or change their vote? If not, the clerk will report.
The CLERK. Mr. Chairman, there are 21 ayes and 10 noes.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. And the motion to report adversely is agreed to.
The business scheduled before the Committee having been completed, the Committee stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 5:42 p.m., the Committee was adjourned.]
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