Last month, House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In the letter, Waxman objected to the State Department’s “instruction to its officials that they cannot communicate with the Committee about corruption in the Maliki government.” unless the Committee treat that information as classified and “withhold it from the public.”
In a hearing before the Committee on corruption within the Iraqi government, Government Accountability Office Comptroller David Walker criticized this lack of transparency, saying he knew of multiple “highly questionable” instances of “retroactive” classification:
Quite frankly, I’ve seen at least two circumstances within the last two months, where both the State Department, this being one, and the Defense Department attempted to retroactively classify something that had been made available publicly and in some cases, were on the World Wide Web, which is obviously, I think, highly questionable.
Waxman added that the State Department has prevented its employees from even mentioning corruption in the Iraqi government:
We even asked one of the people at the State Department whether he agreed with the statement by Secretary Rice when she praised Prime Minister Maliki for his efforts to stop corruption. She even praised it. And we asked this fellow from the State Department, “Do you agree with that?” And he said, “I’m not allowed to discuss that in an open forum.”
The State Department’s censorship is extensive. Prior to the hearing, Waxman arranged interviews with Department officials about the corruption issue, but days later, “the State Department sent an e-mail warning the committee of ‘redlines‘ that should not be crossed in the unclassified sessions.”
“It’s pretty clear that the administration just wants to muzzle any comments that reflect negatively on the Maliki government,” concluded Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY).
UPDATE: The Gavel has more revelations from the hearing.