The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press condemns the actions of the U.S. Senate Democrats who this afternoon closed the chamber for the first time in 25 years, apparently for heated chastisement of Senate Republicans they say have reneged on promises to examine Bush administration claims about prewar intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved for the Senate to go into closed session and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) seconded the motion. The public was ordered out of the chamber; lights were dimmed, and the doors were closed.
Senate Rule 21 allows the Senate to close its doors on a motion and second “on the discussion of any business which may, in the opinion of a Senator, require secrecy.” No vote is necessary for closure.
Democratic members of the Senate met with news media to explain the closed session, which they said is necessary to discuss a “derelict” Senate Intelligence Committee’s review of the prewar issues. Senator Durbin noted that it is within the power of the majority to “close down the closed session” by majority vote.
“While we appreciate Senator Reid’s concern that too little information about the war in Iraq has been forthcoming, the best way to combat secrecy and obfuscation is not more secrecy,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “We would rather see more democracy and less secrecy.”