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Last week the Senate passed the Conference Report of the 137-page Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 2082). The big media story about the bill is its ban on waterboarding, which will apparently prompt a Presidential veto.
If so, President Bush would veto the bill for the worst possible reason, but it may give Congress a fresh start. The problem with H.R. 2082 is that it could just as well be called the Don't Read the Bill Act. Or maybe, the Not Really a Bill Act.
You see, the bill authorizes funding for the federal government's various intelligence agencies, but it doesn't tell us the amount that will be spent. That's "classified information." Of course, we don't expect an itemized list of the cost of every intelligence operation, but the people - and apparently, most members of Congress - aren't even allowed to know the total cost of the bill. If there is a "national security" reason to keep that information classified, then "national security" can be the excuse to justify all kinds of corruption and abuses of power.
Why can't Congress even know the total amount they're spending on our behalf? Whose money is it, anyway?
And why would any self-respecting member of Congress permit this to happen?
Probably because this is their standard operating procedure. They normally don't know what's in the bills they pass. As long as government grows, they're happy. As long as they can say they're "protecting America" by passing bloated, secret intelligence bills, they can't be bothered with the details.
This is, of course, the latest salvo in the ongoing struggle to get Congress to Read the Bills. You might think they'd take the time to read legislation that they intend to pass into law; but as the above shows, they not only don't read most of the bills, sometimes the bills don't even contain verbiage sufficient to describe what it is they are voting on.
The blog entry over at DownsizeDC includes a detailing of the other bills passed by congress over the last two weeks, but most likely not read as well.