Press Releases

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) in an op-ed in today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer called for an investigation into the pre-Iraq War intelligence and the information involving the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), which was comprised of key White House leaders including Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice. 

Smith believes that, “Congress has a clear role to play [in the investigation], because [special prosecutor Patrick] Fitzgerald’s investigation seeks only to punish criminal action and does not deal with the much broader issue of whether the White House deliberately misled the American people. Congress, both in its responsibility to exercise oversight of federal government action and because we received much of the potentially incorrect information being put out by the Administration on Iraq, has the duty of ensuring open and honest communication between the White House and Congress.”

Smith has co-sponsored a Congressional resolution of inquiry with U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), “calling for the White House to turn over to Congress all information involving the WHIG … They were tasked to make the case for going to war in Iraq in an effort to convince Congress and the American people to support that policy.”

Smith goes onto note, “White House assertions that aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq had to be part of a nuclear weapons program, that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger and that we could not afford to let ‘the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud’ all appear to have come from the WHIG. We need to know how they got that information – which we now know to be false – and whether they deliberately misrepresented the facts.”

Smith concludes that, “the holes that have appeared in the case [the Bush Administration made for going to war in Iraq] have done deep and lasting damage to our standing in the world and have undermined the confidence the American people have in their government. Congress can begin to repair this damage by getting to the bottom of the Administration’s actions during the build up to the Iraq war. Anything less does not fulfill our responsibility to the American people.”

The complete text of the op-ed published in today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer, is below:

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Congress must investigate lies, leaks

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

By ADAM SMITH
GUEST COLUMNIST

Did the Bush White House, in a deliberate and organized manner, misrepresent the truth to Congress, the American people and the world in making its case for the military invasion of Iraq? This is a critical question that demands a clear answer. To this point, Congress has abdicated its responsibility to investigate all the facts. That must change.

Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted in the ongoing investigation by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. The alleged actions of Libby, and perhaps Bush senior adviser Karl Rove and others in the White House, to leak classified information in this case appear to have been aimed at discrediting, or threatening, Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson. By CIA request, Wilson had gone to Niger to examine the Bush administration's charge that Saddam Hussein had tried to acquire uranium for a nuclear weapon. Convinced this was not true, Wilson had written an Op-Ed in The New York Times debunking the claim.

Congress has a clear role to play in this issue, because Fitzgerald's investigation seeks only to punish criminal action and does not deal with the much broader issue of whether the White House deliberately misled the American people. Congress, both in its responsibility to exercise oversight of federal government action and because we received much of the potentially incorrect information being put out by the administration on Iraq, has the duty of ensuring open and honest communication between the White House and Congress.

And yet this Congress has not looked into the matter at all. The same Congress that launched investigations into the suicide of Clinton aide Vince Foster and the hiring actions of the Clinton White House with regard to their travel office, among countless other investigations, has sat silent on the critical issue of whether the White House deliberately put out false information in an effort to push our nation into war.

In an effort to get Congress to investigate this important issue, I have co-sponsored a resolution of inquiry calling for the White House to turn over to Congress all information involving the White House Iraq Group. The WHIG was comprised of key White House leaders including Libby, Rove and Condoleezza Rice. They were tasked to make the case for going to war in Iraq in an effort to convince Congress and the American public to support that policy.

White House assertions that aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq had to be part of a nuclear weapons program, that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger and that we could not afford to let "the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud" all appear to have come from the WHIG. We need to know how they got that information -- which we now know to be false -- and whether they deliberately misrepresented the facts. The administration and its supporters often have dismissed the need for an investigation by arguing that everybody thought Saddam had WMD. They seem to mistakenly believe that this assertion makes it irrelevant whether the administration lied.

A legitimate case existed for threatening force against Saddam if he did not allow international inspectors back into Iraq, perhaps even for the ultimate use of that force. Saddam had sought nuclear as well as chemical and biological weapons in the past. In fact, the world discovered after the first Gulf War that Iraq was much further along in the development of a nuclear weapon than we previously thought. Saddam had kicked international inspectors out in 1998, and had shown clear hostile intentions toward other nations in his region and to the United States. By late 2002, we did not know what WMD Iraq had or was trying to develop. Arguably, we could not afford not to know. The inspectors had to go back in and the only way to do that was to threaten military force.

But this is not the case the administration made. The holes that have appeared in the case they made have done deep and lasting damage to our standing in the world and have undermined the confidence the American people have in their government. Congress can begin to repair this damage by getting to the bottom of the administration's actions during the build up to the Iraq war. Anything less does not fulfill our responsibility to the American people.

Today, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Improvement Act with 75 original co-sponsors, including U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), the Ranking Member on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has oversight of American trade policy and U.S. Rep. Benjamin Cardin, Ranking Member on the Trade Subcommittee. The U.S. manufacturing sector has been hit hard with unemployment, and in recent years the service sector has experienced similar declines in employment as a result of the increasingly global and competitive marketplace.

Currently, TAA provides income support, job training, job searching, relocation assistance and health care tax credits to workers who have lost their jobs due to trade. However, TAA is only available to workers in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors.  The new legislation would extend trade TAA benefits to displaced service workers, such as software programmers, hi-tech workers as well as to entire industries if those industries are subject to a trade remedy under US laws that protect domestic industries.  The legislation also amends eligibility requirements for TAA to cover those who lose jobs due to overseas production to any country, not just those countries with whom the U.S. has trade agreements. The bill simplifies the application process for wage insurance. In addition, the legislation strengthens the data collection and reporting requirements by making it mandatory for the Department of Labor to track and make public data on both service sector and manufacturing job trends and TAA usage. Finally, it dramatically increases the funding cap for job training programs and enhances health care subsidies for displaced workers.

“Our nation’s prosperity and economic growth is dependent on our workers’ ability to continually upgrade their skills,” said Smith. “In the face of ever greater global competition, we need to ensure that American workers remain the best and most highly skilled workforce in the world.  The TAA program is an important component of our commitment to workers. This bill recognizes the reality of our changing economy and provides critically important wage and health insurance to those seeking to regain employment.”

Bill Center, the President of the Washington Council on International Trade said, “Worker dislocation is one of the major challenges facing the U.S. economy. Even though trade is but one small component of that problem, anything we can do to better facilitate the ability of our workforce to more smoothly and easily transition between jobs and careers should be applauded. We appreciate Representative Smith’s consistent strong leadership on this issue and look forward to the day these benefits will be available to all displaced workers.”

Smith’s legislation has also received support from members of the labor community.

Kristin Farr, Legislative Director for Society of Professional Engineer Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) and also legislative director for International Federation of Professional Technical Engineers (IFPTE) 2001, said that, “while displaced manufacturing and agricultural workers have benefited from TAA for many years, America's growing population of service sector workers have been left out.  Representative Smith's legislation is critical to promoting the competitiveness of our hard-working American workforce because it provides the necessary funding for retraining that displaced workers need. Current TAA legislation only applies to SPEEA members who worked in Boeing's Commercial Airplane division.  Representative Smith’s legislation could extend TAA benefits to those laid off SPEEA members who worked on a Boeing defense program or an IT job within Boeing's Shared Services Group (SSG).”

Marcus Courtney, President of the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WASHTECH), noted that, “like the manufacturing sector, those in the service sector are increasingly being affected due to job loss from world trade.  This legislation will allow those affected greater access to health care, retraining and unemployment insurance benefits as they make the transition.”

Smith will continue to work with his colleagues in a bipartisan fashion to ensure that American workers have access to the retraining and health care benefits they need. The changes included in this bill will help workers maintain comprehensive, affordable benefits for themselves and their families.

 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following statement today on the death of Civil Rights Leader Rosa Parks:

"Sometimes leaders are born out of the steely determination of a quiet individual. This was Rosa Parks. Nearly half a century ago, she refused to comply with a racist law and she lit the spark of the civil rights battle in the middle of the 20th Century in the United States. It was that battle that empowered millions of citizens and continues today as we work to fulfill America's promise of equality of all. She was a woman of dignity and a lifelong fighter of equal rights for all Americans. Today, we honor the memory of a woman who had the courage to, in one act of simply sitting down, stood up for equal rights for all Americans. Her legacy is one of equality for all and America is a better place because of Rosa Parks."

Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA), an original cosponsor of H.R. 758, the Aerospace Revitalization Act, is pleased that this important legislation passed unanimously out of the U.S. House of Representatives today. The bill coordinates federal and private-sector aerospace workforce development efforts through the establishment of an interagency taskforce. It implements a key recommendation from the 2002 bipartisan Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry report to the President to counter what it termed “the nation’s apathy toward developing a scientifically and technologically trained workforce.”

“The United States aerospace industry is a driver in the United States economic competitiveness, particularly in the Puget Sound region,” said Smith. “The catalyst for economic development is retention and new opportunities and, yet, almost 30 percent of the aerospace manufacturing workforce will become eligible for retirement in 2008.  The panel will address this shortage and take existing federal resources to identify new aerospace workforce training and recruitment opportunities through scholarships, grants and loan programs as well as alliances with the private sector and state governments.”

The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my disappointment for the federal government’s delayed response to Hurricane Katrina.  I am extremely concerned about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael Brown and call for his resignation.

Brown and his senior leadership team have demonstrated a stunning level of ineptitude that made the disaster of Katrina and the loss of life and property much worse than it had to be.  This tragic event has made clear that the FEMA team is not up to the job of protecting Americans from either natural disasters or from any possible terrorist attack.  Security is a paramount concern to me and Americans deserve a competent and able emergency management agency.  Now that it is proven that this team is incapable, we can’t afford to wait to replace Director Brown. 

I also strongly disagree with the suggestion – made by many in the Administration and the majority – that Americans shouldn’t “point fingers” or play the “blame game” as the relief effort continues.  Thousands of lives are at stake right now.  We are also spending billions of public dollars on the recovery and those resources must be spent effectively and efficiently.  We need an experienced team now to implement the government’s plan for repairing the southeast region, not after a lengthy review process.  While I support that broader review, one thing is immediately clear: the director of FEMA is plainly not up to the important job at hand. 

Consider the following critically important facts.

Despite days of warning, FEMA did virtually nothing to prepare for the impact of Katrina.  Director Brown reportedly waited five hours after Katrina struck before he proposed to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff that he send 1,000 Homeland Security workers into the region to support rescuers.  Even then, his letter gave personnel two full days to arrive on the scene to begin offering assistance.  It was five agonizing days before FEMA and DHS showed up in any significant numbers with adequate supplies to help the tens of thousands of people in New Orleans. 

Equally disturbing are the efforts of FEMA and others in the Administration to explain away these inexcusable actions.  Claims have been made that local leaders in Louisiana did not ask for help and that the federal government could not have foreseen that the levees around New Orleans would be breeched in the event of a significant hurricane.  The utter absurdity of these claims makes it even clearer that we need new leadership at FEMA if Americans are to have any confidence that the agency will wisely and effectively deal with the continuing crisis in the Gulf Coast, much less prepare for future natural disasters or terrorist attacks.  

First, locals did ask for help before the storm hit and FEMA assumed responsibility for dealing with the fallout from Katrina.  Louisiana’s Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency for Louisiana on August 26th and on August 27th, she requested federal support. On that same day, and acting on your authorization, Director Brown responded to Blanco's request for assistance and declared that FEMA would "mobilize equipment and resources necessary to protect public health and safety by assisting law enforcement with evacuations, establishing shelters, supporting emergency medical needs, meeting immediate lifesaving and life-sustaining human needs and protecting property, in addition to other emergency protective measures." 

Second, the coming disaster was clear.  Max Mayfield, the Director of the National Hurricane Center has confirmed that both Director Brown and Secretary Chertoff listened to his agency’s briefing on Katrina’s likely impact.  Maxfield made repeated warnings about the hurricane and was quoted by the New Orleans Times-Picayune as saying, "We were briefing them (FEMA and DHS) way before landfall. It’s not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped."  It is alarming that, given this knowledge, FEMA thought it was appropriate to sit back and wait instead of aggressively preparing for the disaster. 

Third, the vulnerability of the levees was well established.  Last year, FEMA conducted a simulation involving the potential evacuation of New Orleans as a result of a Hurricane.  For many years experts had been predicting that the levees could be breached by a hurricane and that the results would be disastrous, costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars.  In 2001, the Army Corps of Engineers conducted a study and found that the levees in the region needed to be updated, raised, and the pumping systems modernized.  In the event of a category 4 or 5 hurricane, like Hurricane Katrina, the levees would fail and the cities within the levees would be at risk of flooding.

Perhaps most troubling, federal officials knew from news reports and from Mayor Ray Nagin’s comments that tens of thousands of New Orleans residents would not be able to respond to the call to evacuate.  Despite this understanding, no action was taken to accommodate those who could not evacuate their city. 

I am deeply troubled by what this failure of leadership could portend for another disaster or attack.  Some of FEMA’s top positions have been staffed with individuals who have ample political and campaign experience, but virtually no understanding of how to prepare for and respond to a disaster of any magnitude.  We expect state and local responders to be well trained and qualified.  The same must be true of FEMA’s leaders.  There is no doubt that a new and better skilled leadership team at FEMA is required in order to best protect our nation.

The tragic events caused by Hurricane Katrina have left hundreds of thousands of Americans with shattered homes and families and without food and water.  I am committed to joining together to provide relief and to save as many lives as possible.  

I have seen the compassion of Americans as volunteers, donations and financial assistance has flowed into the southeast region.  We must now do our part repair the damaged region and assist in rebuilding the lives of many of our citizens.  I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to help the people in this devastated region.