July 6, 2006 2:10 p.m.
House Panel Issues Subpoenas Regarding Abu Ghraib Whistleblower
By John M. Donnelly, CQ Staff
The House Government Reform Committee has issued a subpoena to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, demanding that he produce documents related to the case of a soldier who says the Pentagon retaliated against him for speaking out about abuses at the Abu Ghraib military prison in Iraq.
In a June 30 subpoena signed by committee Chairman Thomas M. Davis III, R-Va., the panel demanded that Rumsfeld provide by July 14 a variety of documents related to Abu Ghraib, as well as information that Army Specialist Samuel Provance gave military officials about conditions there. Also subpoenaed were papers bearing on alleged efforts to silence or punish the soldier.
Provance, who was stationed at Abu Ghraib, testified before the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations in February that Defense Department officials rebuffed him when he tried to tell investigators about abuses at the prison. Then, he said, they revoked his security clearance after he spoke to reporters about the issue.
The subpoena is a sign of lawmakers' bipartisan impatience with the administration's resistance to their attempts to obtain documents as part of their oversight duties and a growing concern, particularly in the Government Reform Committee, that whistleblowers are being mistreated.
Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., the chairman of the national security panel, said in a statement the case is important in itself and as part of a larger cause of protecting those who speak out about injustices or problems.
The bottom line is it's critical that our oversight be taken seriously by executive branch departments and that we get timely access to the information we need to do our job,? he said.
Sibel Edmonds, president of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, said in a statement: Congress has inherent authority pursuant to its oversight responsibilities to receive information on waste, fraud and abuse.? Edmonds applauded the committee for taking the step towards preserving this institutional authority.
The committee first sought the documents in a March 7 letter to Rumsfeld, to which Davis said the secretary did not respond.
Davis, also in a statement, said he then tried to obtain the documents by communicating with Pentagon officials.
But, he said, if the department won't even return a phone call after three months and begin that dialogue, we really have no choice but to subpoena the material and compel their attention to our request.
A spokesman for the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, said officials had provided most of what the committee requested and would provide more on Friday although, he suggested, not necessarily everything the panel seeks.
We have delivered to the House Government Reform Committee 95 percent of the documents that can be provided and are appropriate to provide,? he said. We will provide 100 percent of what can be provided and is appropriate to provide by the end of this week.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, ranking Democrat on the committee, said the documents the Pentagon has turned over so far do not suffice.
Obviously, the response was completely inadequate,? Waxman said at a June 29 committee hearing.
Yay Samuel Provance
Yay Henry Waxman
Yay Tom Davis
Yay Chris Shays