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Rep. Issa Questions Mother Of Murdered U.S. Contractor: ‘Who Wrote Your Statement?’

By ThinkProgress  

"Rep. Issa Questions Mother Of Murdered U.S. Contractor: ‘Who Wrote Your Statement?’"

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blackwater.jpgLast week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held hearings probing the work of U.S. contracting firms in Iraq. The committee heard testimony from four women whose family members were killed by insurgents in Fallujah in 2004, then burnt, dragged through the streets, and hung from a bridge. The women described how the contractor BlackwaterUSA has refused to give them information about the deaths of their loved ones to cover up its own errors.

Almost immediately, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) went on the offense, telling the women, “I don’t think your testimony today is particularly germane to the oversight of this committee.” He added, “One question I have is, the opening statement, who wrote it?”

The women responded to Issa’s attack, explaining that it was a “compilation of all four of us.” But other members came to their defense. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said, “I think clearly the implication was that somehow these wonderful women couldn’t possibly have written that wonderful, heartfelt testimony and that it took a lawyer in order to put it together, and I resent that very much.” Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) added, “I’ve only sat through several hundred, maybe 1,000 hearings, and that is the first time as a member of Congress that I have heard any witnesses asked who wrote their opening statements.”

Watch a compilation of key moments from the hearing:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/02/contractors1.320.240.flv]

Much more on Blackwater USA HERE.

Transcript:

Last week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on private contractors in Iraq. The star witnesses were four women whose contractor husbands were killed and dragged through the streets of Fallujah.

When it was time for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., to speak, he said to the women, “Although I don’t think your testimony today is particularly germane to the oversight of this committee, I am deeply sorry for the losses that you’ve had. … One question I have is, the opening statement, who wrote it?”

Witness Katy Helvenston-Wettengel replied that it was a “compilation of all four of us. We all sent in our thoughts and feelings to [attorney] Dean Callahan and he compiled it, because we were told we only had five minutes.”

After Issa exited for a vote elsewhere, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., sitting as a guest of the committee, said she took “exception to the question about who wrote the testimony, because I think clearly the implication was that somehow these wonderful women couldn’t possibly have written that wonderful, heartfelt testimony and that it took a lawyer in order to put it together, and I resent that very much and I wanted to just put that on the record.”

When Issa returned and was informed of Schakowsky’s comments, he asked them to be stricken from the record, calling it “disparaging” and “implying that my question to the witness was related to having been a woman outside the ordinary course of business.”

Next up was Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., who pointed out the elephant in the room. “I’ve only been a member here for five years,” said Lynch. “I’ve only sat through several hundred, maybe 1,000 hearings, and that is the first time as a member of Congress that I have heard any witnesses asked who wrote their opening statements.

“And I might say, also, that if that question is a fair one, then you might ask how many members up here at this table wrote their own opening statements. You might be surprised at those answers.”

Helvenston-Wettengel felt compelled to add, “Good point.”

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