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Context of 'September 15-20, 2002: Lawmaker ‘Stunned’ by Lack of Evidence for Imminent Threat from Iraq'

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The presidential papers of Ronald Reagan are scheduled to be released to the public (by Reagan’s own decision), but on his first day in office, Bush invokes a clause in the Presidential Records Act (PRA) to allow him 30 days to “review” the papers before releasing them. He will continue to “review” them every month until November 2001. Then Bush will issue an executive order giving him essentially carte blanche in deciding if and when any presidential papers will ever be released (see January 20-September 10, 2001 and November 1, 2001). The standard of the 1978 Presidential Records Act is to make presidential records and documents available after twelve years, if not voluntarily made available sooner, and with some obvious exceptions such as classified materials concerning national security. The first president to whom the new law applies is Ronald Reagan, and his vice-president, George H.W. Bush. The Reagan library has already released, or is readying for release, all but about 68,000 pages. The law provides that an incumbent president can double-check the release to ensure it falls within the law’s provision. According to the Act, the 68,000 pages are to be released now. Bush’s order will declare that not only can a former president assert executive privilege over his papers against the will of the incumbent president (a measure Reagan instituted just before he left office) but that a sitting president could also block the papers of a predecessor, even if that predecessor had approved their release. The implications of this change are breathtaking. “It’s pretty fishy,” says Anna Nelson, an American University history professor. “The precautions on ‘national security’ are extreme. These are not Iran-Contra papers.” Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, says, “This is a test of Congress to see how much the administration can get away with. It is not at all surprising the executive branch would want to operate in secret. The question is, How much will Congress accept?” [Nation, 2/7/2002; Dean, 2004, pp. 89-90]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Steven Aftergood, Anna Nelson, Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Iran-Contra Affair

Representatives of 13 environmentalist groups meet with officials from Vice President Cheney’s energy task force (the National Energy Policy Development Group—see May 16, 2001). Since late January, some 40 task force meetings have been held, all with oil and energy company executives and lobbyists (see Before January 20, 2001, After January 20, 2001, Mid-February, 2001, Mid-February, 2001, March 5, 2001, March 20, 2001, March 21, 2001, March 22, 2001, April 12, 2001. April 17, 2001, and April 17, 2001 and After). Today is the one day where environmental groups are allowed to have any input. Anna Aurilio of the US Public Interest Group will later say, “It was clear to us that they were just being nice to us.” (Notably, the only people ever identified as “lobbyists” by the task force to the press are the representatives from the environmental groups from today’s meeting.) Their input is neither wanted nor used; an initial draft of the task force’s report has already been prepared and President Bush has already been briefed on its contents. The names of the various officials, executives, lobbyists, and representatives who meet with the task force will not be released for six years (see July 18, 2007). Until this meeting, the only environmentalist group to meet with the Cheney task force has been the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, founded in 1998 by conservative tax activist Grover Norquist and Gale Norton, now the Bush administration’s Secretary of the Interior. That group is now run by Italia Federici, described by the Washington Post as “socially involved” with Norton’s deputy, J. Steven Griles. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 18; Washington Post, 7/18/2007]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, J. Steven Griles, US Public Interest Group, National Energy Policy Development Group, Italia Federici, Anna Aurilio, Grover Norquist, Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, George W. Bush, Gale A. Norton

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

In closed sessions, administration officials are asked several times whether they have evidence of an imminent threat from Iraq against US citizens. US Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) later tells the San Francisco Chronicle that the officials acknowledged they had no such evidence. “They said ‘no,’” she says. “Not ‘no, but’ or ‘maybe,’ but ‘no.’ I was stunned. Not shocked. Not surprised. Stunned.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/20/2002 Sources: Anna Eshoo]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Anna Eshoo

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, frustrated with Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator L. Paul Bremer’s lack of cooperation and coordination with her office (see September 8, 2003 and December 2003 and After), forms the Iraq Stabilization Group (ISG) to oversee Bremer and settle disputes between the Defense and State Departments in governing Iraq. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 130] According to unnamed White House officials, the ISG originated with President Bush’s frustration at the lack of progress in both Iraq and Afghanistan. “The president knows his legacy, and maybe his re-election, depends on getting this right,” says an administration official. “This is as close as anyone will come to acknowledging that it’s not working.” Defense Department officials deny that the ISG is designed to take power away from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “Don recognizes this is not what the Pentagon does best, and he is, in some ways, relieved to give up some of the authority here,” says one senior Pentagon official. In reality, both Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell are giving up some control over the reconstruction efforts to the White House, specifically to the National Security Council. Rice will oversee four coordinating committees, on counterterrorism efforts, economic development, political affairs in Iraq and media messaging. One of her deputies will run each committee, assisted by undersecretaries from State, Defense, and the Treasury Department, as well as representatives from the CIA. The counterterrorism committee will be run by Frances Fragos Townsend; the economic committee by Gary Edson; the political affairs committee by Robert Blackwill; and the communications committee by Anna Perez. [New York Times, 10/6/2003] In May 2004, the Washington Post will report that the ISG is dysfunctional and ineffective almost from the outset; within months, all but Blackwill have been reassigned (Perez will leave Washington for a job with NBC), and a search of the White House Web site will find no mention of the ISG later than October 2003. [Washington Post, 5/18/2004]

Entity Tags: Iraq Stabilization Group, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Coalition Provisional Authority, Anna Perez, Frances Townsend, George W. Bush, US Department of Defense, US Department of State, Robert Blackwill, National Security Council, L. Paul Bremer, US Department of the Treasury, Gary Edson

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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