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Concern spreads about lack of accountability in emergency Treasury bill

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  1. Freedom of Information
In light of last week's crisis on Wall Street, Congress is considering emergency legislation aimed at giving the Treasury Department…

In light of last week’s crisis on Wall Street, Congress is considering emergency legislation aimed at giving the Treasury Department broader powers. But the bill would mean that some decisions by the Treasury Secretary could not be challenged in court.  The language in the bill has spawned concern from some Congressional leaders.

The bill provides, “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”  

On NPR’s morning show Monday, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. said Congress would address the transparency issue.   “I don’t think the American public will be shocked to hear that when you ask for $700 billion, demanding some accountability, transparency, some oversight of this is essential,” Dodd told NPR.  

He also pointed out that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson may not be in place after the November election, making it all the more important Congress consider carefully the powers that the position would have.  

“So it isn’t just this [one] man, but someone none of us know anything about — we don’t even know who it is — who will be assuming the bulk of responsibility for handling this for the next two or three years. So the reason why we want to build in here some accountability and oversight into this process, so we can be careful, is because, frankly, we’re in uncharted waters. I know this sounds like a lot of people bickering … it really isn’t that much. We’re talking about some basic essentials that any responsible Congress, any responsible government, would insist upon,” Dodd said on NPR.

The Wall Street Journal reported, "The effort to block court review reminded some congressional staffers of the Bush administration’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when it issued language and took steps to keep judges from second-guessing decisions about wiretapping and detention of suspected enemy agents."