Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Democrats seek classified briefing with Rice

Democrats seek classified briefing with Rice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democrats said on Monday that Republicans were denying lawmakers a chance to get new information on Iraq and the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners by having Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice give an unclassified briefing.

But Republicans said they were giving lawmakers a chance to hear from Rice about the administration's plans in Iraq and discuss that freely with their constituents in her briefing scheduled for Wednesday.

Senate Minority leader Harry Reid accused Majority leader Bill Frist of disregarding "our normal, long-standing protocol" by limiting Rice's scheduled briefing to non-classified matters, and said it will deny members a chance to "fully and thoroughly question" Rice.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said he could "only conclude" that Frist took the step "to protect the administration and prevent it from being held accountable for its performance."

But Amy Call, spokeswoman for Frist, said it was an opportunity for senators to talk with Rice about the administration's strategy for Iraq. "By doing a non-classified briefing, it allows members to discuss that plan with the American people," she said.

Reid, in a letter to Frist, said the Tennessee Republican's decision meant senators will be "unable to fully discuss the security situation in Iraq."

Reid said it also would prevent a "far-reaching exchange on the administration's torture policies and alleged secret prisons, which press reports indicate the secretary discussed at length with our European allies during her recent trip."

Traveling in Europe last week, Rice faced questions over the U.S. treatment of detainees and reports that the CIA has run secret prisons in Eastern Europe for its war on terror.