Lieberman, Collins Threaten to Subpoena Obama Administration for Withholding Info on Ft. Hood Shooter

ABC's Luis Martinez reports:

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, say they will issue subpoenas next week to the Pentagon and the Justice Department unless both departments end what they call “foot-dragging” in cooperating with the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee’s probe of the Fort Hood shootings.

At a Capitol Hill news conference today, both senators said they’d been patient with the administration in the five months since the probe began, but don’t buy the administration’s concern that providing access to records and individuals to the committee might compromise the prosecution of alleged shooter, Army Major Nidal Hasan.

Lieberman said committee staff had repeatedly exchanged letters with Gates and AG Holder, but that the response had been “much foot-dragging, with very limited assistance and changing reasons for why the administration can’t provide us with the information requested.” He called the administration’s response to a legitimate congressional inquiry “inadequate and unreasonable.”

He said any documents provided to the committee so far were background documents easily accessible on the internet and that briefings with witnesses did not further the committee’s investigation.

Both senators recalled that shortly after the shooting, President Obama had welcomed the committee’s investigation, but said the administration had fallen short of his commitments to assist the investigation.

Collins said, “we took him at his word,” but unfortunately the committee “had been stymied” in its attempt to find out what the government knew about Hasan prior to the shootings. Lieberman speculated that either “people within the administration didn't hear the president's words or they have been overturned.”

Collins said the committee had already “bent over backwards to accommodate the concerns that have been expressed by administration officials.” But that, “Unfortunately, what we're dealing with are not legitimate concerns but rather what seems to be an inexplicable determination to stalemate and slow-walk our investigation.”

Lieberman said, “Unless there's a change in this resistance from the administration, we're going to issue those subpoenas next week.”

The Senators emphasized that their investigation is focused on what the military knew about Hasan prior to the attack last November and what can be done to prevent a repeat in the future. They emphasize this is why they don’t believe the administration’s argument that granting them access to information and witnesses might compromise Hasan’s prosecution.

Both senators complained that their committee was not being granted access to materials like Hasan’s Army personnel file, yet it was provided to the DOD civilian review panel headed by Togo West and Vern Clark. They said they could not understand how civilian panels could be granted such access while it was being withheld from a congressional committee bound to confidentiality.

Lieberman said the committee has “no intention of jeopardizing the criminal case against Hassan. ”

Collins said the committee did not want access to witnesses of the shooting, that would be the prosecution’s responsibility, but to individuals who could provide insights into the events leading up to the shooting. Collins called the argument that granting access to those individuals because it would impact the prosecution was “foolish and not valid.” A letter sent to the committee sent by senior Pentagon and Justice Department officials earlier this week countered the committee’s requests and requested that the committee not resort to subpoenaes.

In a letter, dated April 12, 2010, Elizabeth King, from the DOD’s Office of Legislative Affairs, and Ronald Weich, of the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs, maintained that the personnel and records requested by the committee go “to the very heart of the issues in the military proceedings” and could pose “inevitable, unacceptable risks to our prosecution.”

Acknowledging the committee’s intent not to conduct a “parallel investigation” of the shooting, the officials stated “the reality is that your requests seek information that is relevant and important to the criminal case ” because prior actions would be relevant to Hasan’s “motive and intent.”

Lieberman called the Pentagon’s announcement earlier today that it would implement some of the recommendations from the West/Clark panel as “oddly coincidental.” He noted that one of the recommendations affected the Joint Terrorism Task Force and that his committee wants to get at what the JTTF may have known prior to the shootings and what the DOD’s representation on that panel really was.

Lieberman said that should the subpoenaes be issued on Monday and both the Justice Department and the DOD do not comply, it would require a committee vote and then another vote from the full Senate to take them to court.

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