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Appointment of Conferees on H.R. 1815 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006

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Location: Washington, DC


APPOINTMENT OF CONFEREES ON H.R. 1815, NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006 -- (House of Representatives - December 15, 2005)

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Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time.

Mr. Speaker, it is our constitutional responsibility to exercise oversight, and I want to say to the gentleman who just spoke, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, this side of the aisle believes that you have been more bipartisan and are trying to include both sides in the deliberations, and we believe that is the correct way to do it, and we congratulate you for that.

This issue, of course, came up after your bill passed, so it could not have been offered in your bill because the issue was not known. It asked for a report to the Defense Committee as well. That is the bill that we are discussing. It is, I think, very relevant. I would hope that every Member would vote for this motion.

Quite simply, this motion would instruct conferees to agree to a Senate provision, passed 82-9, that requires the director of the National Intelligence Agency to provide members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees with a detailed report of any clandestine prison or detention facility where detainees in the global war on terrorism are or were being held.

This Congress ought to know that information. The Intelligence Committee ought to know that information. Indeed, in my opinion, perhaps all America ought to know that.

I say to my colleagues, whether you are troubled by recent revelations that the United States operates a clandestine prison or prisons on foreign soil or not, and I am one who is troubled by it, you should not quarrel with the proposition that the Members of this Congress have a constitutional obligation to conduct oversight on the administration's conduct of this war. That is what makes America different.

Mr. McHUGH. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to yield to the gentleman from New York, had I more time.

Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from New York (Mr. McHugh) for the purposes of conducting a colloquy with the gentleman from Maryland.

Mr. McHUGH. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Maryland and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Mr. Speaker, as I think the only Member in the House tonight who is both a member of the Armed Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee, I listened to what the gentleman said. The gentleman said that he felt the information should be known to the Intelligence Committee, and I agree with the gentleman, and also to the House.

Would the gentleman help me understand, because based on the language of the instruction, I see no requirement that the information reported to the Intel Committee be reported to the full House, is that his understanding, that somehow that very clandestine, very important information, very secretive information, should be shared to the whole House? Because that is not contained in the instruction.

Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, I think the gentleman is correct, that it would not be shared with the whole House as a public disclosure. My understanding, and I stand to be corrected, is that every Member of the House, however, has the opportunity to go to the Intelligence Committee and see that information for themselves. I think I am correct on that. The gentleman may know more about that than I do.

Mr. McHUGH. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, I would ask the gentleman, why are we here tonight? The fact of the matter is, as I believe the chairman of the Intel Committee suggested, the oversight activities associated with these kinds of facilities is being conducted by the Intel Committee and is in fact available to those Members of the House who wish to come here. Why is this instruction necessary?

Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, the reason for that is for the same reason that overwhelmingly in the Senate they asked, because they wanted to assure that the information on the publicly disclosed conduct is in fact available to the Intelligence Committees of both Houses and to the Defense Committees.

Now, the gentleman who chairs that committee has said, we have that information. We do not have the information on our side of the aisle that in fact we have information from the National Intelligence Director as it relates to the publicly disclosed facilities and the use of those facilities and the countries which are receptors for those facilities.

Mr. McHUGH. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, just so I understand, is the gentleman from Maryland saying that the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Harman), the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, does not have that information available to her, because that is what the gentleman very strongly suggested? I do not see the gentlewoman from California on the floor tonight. I do not think she would agree with that kind of assertion.

Mr. HOYER. Are you asking me whether Ms. Harman has it? I have not had a conversation with Ms. Harman, so I cannot respond.

Mr. McHUGH. Mr. Speaker, I cannot either. I have not talked to the gentlewoman from California, but I feel very confident, and certainly if the chairman of the full committee would like to stand forward to the microphone and take this, I would be shocked, I would be stunned, if the gentlewoman from California, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, did not have that information. The point being, at the end of the day, and there is no one, no one I respect more and feel more affection toward, in all areas but particularly in the area of defense, than the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton), but it just seems to me that these are activities that are already occurring. They are activities that, as a 13-year member of the Armed Services Committee, in spite of my loyalty to that committee, I feel are beyond the bounds of this committee and are not necessary, and I am confused as to why we are here as members of the Armed Services Committee trying to instruct the Intelligence Committee to do something that is already being done.

Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Rehberg). The gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer) has 1 1/2 minutes remaining.

Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was a cosponsor of this resolution. Obviously, it was his conclusion the Intelligence Committees did not have it.

Regrettably, very frankly, I tell my friend from New York, this Congress has shown little inclination for oversight. I am not going to go into the number of incidents that I think we should have had oversight on that we have not, particularly in the House as opposed to the Senate, which has had some more but not much. In my judgment, the revelations of clandestine CIA interrogation centers are serious and disconcerting, and this Congress, on behalf of the American people, needs to get at the bottom of it. The contention is that we have. Perhaps so. But apparently, again, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee does not think that is the case.

These revelations, if true, and the administration has not denied them, threaten to undermine our standing as the world's leading advocate for basic human rights and the rule of law. That concerns me. I presume it concerns every Member of this body. They threaten to underline our alliance.

Following in the footsteps of the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, which I think seriously undermined our position, Guantanamo Bay and Bagram Air Base, this story is yet another example of the administration's attitude toward adherence to domestic and international law. That concerns me. It ought to concern the Congress. That is what separation of powers is about.

When we abandon the moral standards upon which our country was founded in the conduct of the war on terror, which I have supported, we not only diminish our standing in the world, we foment resentment against the United States and embolden those with whom we are engaged in a daily struggle.

I have supported that struggle. I intend to continue to support that struggle. But I think our moral standing needs to be as strong, frankly, as our military standing. Both will stand this country and Nation in good stead, as they have through history.

I thank the gentleman for yielding me time, and urge support of the gentleman's motion

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Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for yielding.

I understand the gentleman from Hawaii, and I checked to make sure I understood him correctly and the facts correctly, is that the Senate has offered an amendment which is included in the Defense bill which is being conferenced, the very bill to which this motion is being directed, that we take the Senate language that is in the Defense bill. So, obviously, it is absolutely relevant on the bill that is going to conference. In fact, it would not be relevant in any other piece of legislation.

I suggest to my friend that the gentleman is correct, it ought to be offered in a relevant time, and now is the relevant time.

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