Tensions over the Bush administration’s sharing of information with Congress flared anew yesterday as the White Houseexcluded the House Democratic leader from a confidential briefing and Bush aides swapped charges with lawmakers aboutwho was told of White House contingency plans dealing with a hypothetical nuclear attack on Washington.
House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) first learned from a reporter about yesterday’s classified briefingfor congressional leaders on the contingency plans, his aides said. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer blameda "scheduling matter" and said Gephardt had "already been talked to," which Gephardt’s aides said was untrue.
The White House also disputed lawmakers’ claims that they had not been advised of the administration’s contingencyplans, reported last week in the Washington Post, involving scores of career government officials takingrotations in underground bunkers outside of Washington. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) who as Senate president protempore is third in line to the presidency and Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) had said they werenot informed of the plans.
The White House released records showing that the secretary of the Senate and the Senate sergeant at arms had beenbriefed Sept. 22. Administration officials said the briefing included a tour of one of the facilities. They said Byrdwas offered a similar briefing Sept. 24 but declined. In a statement, the two Senate officials said the briefing wasnot about executive branch contingency plans.
We now continue with part 2 of our in-depth look at Washington’s secret shadow government. As we reported onDemocracy Now! yesterday, President Bush has dispatched about 100 senior civilian managers to live and work secretlyoutside Washington. Bush has activated for the first time long-standing plans to ensure survival of federal ruleafter catastrophic attack on the nation’s capital.
- Christopher Simpson, professor of communications at American University in Washington DC. He is author of??Blowback and ??War Crimes of the Deutche Bank and the Dresner Bank, among other books.