The true priorities of this administration are revealed by the way they treat testifying before various committees and bodies outside the executive branch.
Even before 9/11 this administration was gaining a reputation as the most secrecy and privilege obsessed administration since Nixon. Cheney set the tone in his refusal to release records of his energy task force meetings to the General Accounting Office (GAO). The GAO’s frustration with Cheney’s stonewalling finally led them to sue the White House. The official line of defense offered by Cheney and others was "You just cannot accept that proposition without putting a chill over the ability of the president and vice president to receive unvarnished advice." At the time Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and John Dingell (D-MI) wrote a letter to Cheney stating that if he won his case in court, the White House would be "virtually immune from routine oversight." That, of course, is exactly what the Bush White House wants.
This same principle was recently invoked again, this time in defense of Condoleezza Rice’s refusing to testify in public, under oath, before the 9/11 commission.
But White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales said that in order for presidents to receive the most candid advice from their staffs, “it is important that these advisers not be compelled to testify publicly before congressional bodies such as the commission.”
While some people might have been convinced by Cheney framing the energy task force issue as one of principle, it’s hard to do the same with Rice. The issue being investigated by the 9/11 commission is the security of the American people. This administration has asked us all to put security above our rights and privileges. Yet they refuse to do the same.
Their position is clear: it is more important to the Bush administration to protect their own executive privileges than it is to protect American lives.