On December 21, 2006, President Bush signed S. 2370, the “Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006” , but made a statement indicating he intends to ignore reporting requirements:
The executive branch shall construe section 3(b) of the Act, which relates to access to certain information by a legislative agent, and section 11 of the Act, which relates to a report on certain assistance by foreign countries, international organizations, or multilateral development banks, in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to withhold information that could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive’s constitutional duties.
According to the final version of the bill on Congress’ Thomas web site, here are the “offending sections” in the President’s view:
`(b) Exceptions- Subsection (a) shall not apply with respect to the following:
`(1) ASSISTANCE TO MEET BASIC HUMAN NEEDS- Assistance to meet food, water, medicine, health, or sanitation needs, or other assistance to meet basic human needs.
`(2) ASSISTANCE TO PROMOTE DEMOCRACY- Assistance to promote democracy, human rights, freedom of the press, non-violence, reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence, provided that such assistance does not directly benefit Hamas or any other foreign terrorist organization.
`(3) ASSISTANCE FOR INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF THE PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL- Assistance, other than funding of salaries or salary supplements, to individual members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who the President determines are not members of Hamas or any other foreign terrorist organization, for the purposes of facilitating the attendance of such members in programs for the development of institutions of democratic governance, including enhancing the transparent and accountable operations of such institutions, and providing support for the Middle East peace process.
`(4) OTHER TYPES OF ASSISTANCE- Any other type of assistance if the President–
`(A) determines that the provision of such assistance is in the national security interest of the United States; and
`(B) not less than 30 days prior to the obligation of amounts for the provision of such assistance–
`(i) consults with the appropriate congressional committees regarding the specific programs, projects, and activities to be carried out using such assistance; and
`(ii) submits to the appropriate congressional committees a written memorandum that contains the determination of the President under subparagraph (A).
SEC. 11. REPORTING REQUIREMENT.
Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that–
(1) describes the steps that have been taken by the United States Government to ensure that other countries and international organizations, including multilateral development banks, do not provide direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority for any period for which a certification described in section 620K(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (as added by section 2(b)(2) of this Act) is not in effect with respect to the Palestinian Authority; and
(2) identifies any countries and international organizations, including multilateral development banks, that are providing direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority during such a period, and describes the nature and amount of such assistance.
FGI leaves it to others to interpret section 3(b) above, but in denying the validity of Section 11, the President appears to be saying that he considers mere reporting of aid to the Palestinians by other nations and groups to be harmful to the national interest.
Does this mean that the Administration is aware of non-humanitarian aid to the Hamas-led government, but doesn’t want to make that public? If so, it must be coming from our “allies” in the Mideast, since presumably Iranian or Syrian Aid would be splashed across the front pages of papers.
These are the kinds of questions we are left with by a secretive administration.
How many of these signing statement will it take to convince Congress that any “compromise” legislation based on reporting requirements in exchange for new powers or resources is doomed to failure? Will this pattern of allowing the administration to pick and choose from the laws it obeys continue with the new Congressional majority? FGI hopes so.