Their dissent, prepared
by Democrats in the House, is an eight-page explanation
of why they feel investigating Gannon’s credentialing
was warranted, citing preferential treatment and issues
Most salient, perhaps, are the Democrats’ effort
to place Gannon in a broader context of the Republican-led
Congress’ moves to derail investigations on issues
such as Abu Ghraib and Halliburton contracts.
“We have an Administration that is all too willing
to flaunt the law, and a Republican-controlled Congress
that refuses to investigate even the most serious ethical
transgressions,” the Democrats write. “Whether
it is torture at Abu Ghraib, sole source contracts with
Haliburton, or the outing of a CIA operative, this Congress
has been unwilling and unable to ask the hard questions
or issue the difficult subpoenas.
“The Committee’s failure to request even
the most cursory of information regarding Mr. Gannon
from the Administration,” they continue, “represents
a disturbing continuation of this trend, and illustrates
the ongoing problem of one-party rule in Washington.”
Their dissent, leaked to RAW STORY this evening, follows.
Dissenting Views to Committee’s Adverse Reporting
of H. Res. 136
We vigorously dissent from the Majority’s decision
to report adversely H. Res. 136, which would have requested
the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security
disclose information concerning the manner in which
Jeffrey Gannon (aka James A. Guckert) received White
House press privileges.
We dissent because we believe 1) Mr. Gannon was granted
preferential access by the White House; 2) the granting
of such access via temporary passes raises serious security
issues; 3) the Administration’s course of dealings
with Mr. Gannon may also have violated various legal
requirements; and 4) there are no other means available
to pursue these lines of inquiry.
By defeating this Resolution, all of the above questions
will remain unanswered, and the Majority continues a
long line of inaction on their part which runs totally
counter to the principles of accountability and checks
and balances that our nation was founded upon. The Majority’s
perfunctory rejection of this important Resolution,
on a party line vote of 21-10, at the end of a long
day of markup of other business, does a disservice to
the 33 Members, including 14 members of this Committee,
who submitted this Resolution of Inquiry to the House.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that we have an Administration
that is all too willing to flaunt the law, and a Republican-controlled
Congress that refuses to investigate even the most serious
ethical transgressions. Whether it is torture at Abu
Ghraib, sole source contracts with Haliburton, or the
outing of a CIA operative, this Congress has been unwilling
and unable to ask the hard questions or issue the difficult
subpoenas. The Committee’s failure to request
even the most cursory of information regarding Mr. Gannon
from the Administration represents a disturbing continuation
of this trend, and illustrates the ongoing problem of
one-party rule in Washington.
When our Committee enacted its rules on January 26,
2005, Rep. Conyers offered an amendment to insure that
the Minority could request oversight hearings into ethical
abuses by the Administration. The Chairman rejected
the proposal stating, among other things, that the resolution
of inquiry was the Minority’s vehicle for investigation.
Yet, now that we have proposed such a Resolution, the
Majority has rejected it based on the specious contentions
that our requests for information have been complied
with, and that other investigations are ongoing. These
assertions are neither accurate or relevant.
In the following several pages, we set forth relevant
background on this matter, and detail the reasons for
our dissent in greater detail.
It is now widely known that James D. Guckert, a Republican
activist, gained repeated access to the White House
press briefing room and presidential press conferences
from January of 2003 to January of 2005. He was allowed
to work under the assumed name of “Jeff Gannon.”
Almost immediately after President Bush called on Mr.
Gannon by name during a January 26, 2005 press conference
(to ask a controversial question deriding the Senate
Democratic Leadership), the blogosphere began investigating
Mr. Gannon’s real identity, his journalistic ties,
and his relationships within the Republican party. It
is now clear that Talon News, for which Mr. Gannon served
as the White House correspondent, has close working
ties with Republican operatives, as well as a GOPUSA.com
website. In fact, the same individual, Bobby Eberle,
a Texas Republican activist and previous GOP delegate,
owns both of these organizations. While Mr. Eberle’s
Talon website claims to be “committed to delivering
accurate, unbiased news coverage to [its] readers,”
his GOPUSA.com site asserts itself as “bringing
the conservative message to America.”
Further evidencing the tie between this alleged nonpartisan
organization and its partisan counterpart is the fact
that both organizations’ websites are registered
to what appears to be Mr. Eberle’s Pearland, Texas
personal residence address, and even TalonNews.com’s
domain name registration contains Mr. Eberle’s
GOPUSA email address. After learning of this, online
advocacy group Media Matters for America concluded,
“Talon News apparently consists of little more
than Eberle, Gannon, and a few volunteers, and is virtually
indistinguishable from GOPUSA.com . . . GOPUSA’s
officers and directors show a similar lack of journalism
experience, but plenty of experience working for Republican
It became readily apparent that Mr. Eberle and Mr.
Gannon did not want the public to know of this connection.
Shortly after Media Matters publicized this relationship
to the American people, Talon quickly pulled its staff
and reporter biographies from its website. It is, however,
worth noting though that these biographies were still
likely available at the time that Mr. Gannon and Talon
requested access to the White House.
The Standing Committee of Correspondents, a group of
congressional reporters charged with overseeing the
credentialing of press on Capitol Hill, quickly uncovered
this relationship. On April 7, 2004, the Standing Committee
denied Mr. Gannon’s application for a press pass
based on its inability to conclude that Talon was a
legitimate, independent news organization.
Further investigation of Talon News revealed that its
staff consisted of largely volunteer Republican activists
having no journalism experience. Online advocacy group
Media Matters for America analyzed several of Mr. Gannon’s
posted articles and found on multiple occasions that
Mr. Gannon had copied entire sections straight from
White House press releases and pasted them into his
filed dispatches as if it was his own writing.
Standard operating procedure requires that anyone who
has regular access to the White House receive a permanent
or “hard pass.” Hard pass recipients must
meet the following five criteria: 1) they must work
for a news organization that is either based in Washington,
or which has a Washington Bureau; 2) they must live
in the Washington area; 3) they must demonstrate a need
to be at the White House on a regular basis (this is
usually done in a letter from a bureau chief to the
Secret Service); 4) they must have a pass authorizing
them to cover the U.S. Senate or House congressional
galleries; and 5) they must undergo a Secret Service
As noted above, Mr. Gannon was refused a congressional
pass after the House and the Senate learned that he
worked for GOPUSA. This prevented Mr. Gannon from receiving
a hard pass. With White House approval, however, he
was able to circumvent this requirement and obtained
almost daily access to the White House, by virtue of
receiving a series of “day passes” over
an approximately two-year period.
According to White House Press Secretary Scott McClellean,
only 20 to 25 day passes are handed out each day. Those
passes are handled by the same staff assistant every
day, and are given to members of the press who are not
part of the Washington news corps generally, but are
covering a very specific issue or event that the White
House is addressing on that day.
Grounds for Dissent
Mr. Gannon Was Granted Preferential Access by the White
First and foremost, we are concerned that Mr. Gannon
was granted preferential access by the White House over
an approximately two-year period. This in turn raises
questions as to whether the ordinary press requirements
and safeguards were obviated merely to provide the Administration
with a sympathetic questioner at White House briefings.
Mr. Gannon’s use of an alias, as well as the
circumstances surrounding his access to the White House,
contradict the strict standards the Secret Service sets
for protecting the President and deviate substantially
from standards applied to others seeking access to the
White House or the President. To the best of our knowledge,
Gannon is the only member of the White House press corps
to receive such a privileged standing. In fact, Pulitzer
Prize winning journalists have been turned down for
press passes. It therefore appears to be highly unlikely
that Mr. Gannon could have been repeatedly allowed into
the White House over such a lengthy period without the
intervention of someone very high up at the White House.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. This
Administration has come under severe questioning for
its involvement in “manufactured” news.
Among other things, Armstrong Williams received $240,000
from the Bush Administration to help promote the President’s
“No Child Left Behind” program to minority
audiences through his nationally-syndicated column.
Michael McManus, author of the syndicated column, “Ethics
& Religion,” which appears in 50 newspapers
nationwide, was paid to champion a marriage initiative
on the Administration’s behalf and also did not
disclose to his readers that he was contracted to help
make the initiative a success.
These are just two of many contracts doled out by the
Bush Administration, which has expended more than $88
million in taxpayer funds to disseminate manufactured
news and propaganda. In the present case, we have a
very real concern that the White House intervened to
grant such access with the specific intent of having
a Republican partisan conveniently available to pose
sympathetic questions at White House press briefings.
Adoption of this Resolution of Inquiry would allow us
to resolve these concerns.
The Granting of Such Access Via Temporary Passes Raises
Serious Security Issues
By creating a loophole to the ordinary means of obtaining
a White House press pass granting preferential access
to Mr. Gannon, the Administration may have unwittingly
jeopardized the security of the president.
Mr. Gannon received access to the White House through
the repeated issuance of day passes. Unlike permanent
or “hard passes,” a day pass does not require
a full Secret Service background check. In fact, clearance
for a hard pass can take two to three months to complete.
According to Carl Cannon, the immediate past President
of the White House Correspondents Association, day passes
are given to those who need access only for a short
time to cover a specific event or immediate story. However,
it appears that the Bush Administration may have abused
this process to keep Mr. Gannon in what amounts to near-constant
access to the President. By repeatedly issuing day passes
to Mr. Gannon, the White House was allowed to sidestep
the usual clearance process for anyone with such regular
access to press events.
The precedent of such a waiver is quite alarming. It
allows individuals who are unable to meet the criteria
necessary to obtain a hard pass to obviate those requirements
by obtaining special recourse to day pass procedures.
At a minimum, this is highly dubious and dangerous alternative
in the post 9-11 world when security concerns should
be among the White House’s highest priorities.
This concern alone justifies the adoption by the Committee
of H. Res. 136 so that we may explore the issue in greater
The Administration’s Course of Dealings with Mr.
Gannon May Have Violated Various Legal Requirements
We also believe it is important to obtain information
concerning Mr. Gannon’s interactions with the
White House in order to resolve concerns the White House
may have illegally published propaganda and improperly
granted access to classified information.
On numerous occasions Mr. Gannon reprinted White House
talking points and press releases word for word as his
own work. The non-partisan GAO has determined that it
is illegal for the Administration to use appropriated
money to broadcast or publish propaganda without taking
credit for it. Accordingly, the White House may have
violated this ban when it gave prepackaged print stories
to Mr. Gannon, which he reprinted wholesale without
disclosing that they were authored by the Administration.
A separate legal concern relates to the fact that Mr.
Guckert may have had access to classified information,
in violation of laws that protect the identity of undercover
agents. This is because he claimed to have seen a classified
CIA document identifying Valerie Plame as an undercover
There Are No Other Means Available to Pursue These Lines
It is important that we pursue this information from
the Administration through a Resolution of Inquiry since
all other potential avenues of obtaining the information
have either been ignored or rejected by the Administration.
This resolution comes only after numerous Congressional
inquiries that have gone unanswered (all attached herewith):
• Feb. 9, 2005: Representative Slaughter writes
to President Bush inquiring how Mr. Gannon repeatedly
got access to the White House press corps – No
response received to date.
• Feb. 10, 2005: Representatives Slaughter and
Conyers write special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald
to inquire whether he was aware that Mr. Gannon claimed
he had access to a classified CIA memo outing Valerie
Plame as a undercover agent – Mr. Fitzgerald acknowledged
receipt, but would not comment on the status of his
• Feb. 10, 2005: Representatives Slaughter and
Conyers write to the head of the Secret Service to inquire
whether Mr. Gannon went through standard clearance procedures,
and who in the White House requested his access –
The Secret Service responded by confirming that Mr.
Gannon was cleared for access under his real name, James
Guckert, however, they did not answer any of the other
questions such as whether he had a full background check
or who requested his access to the White House.
• Feb. 15, 2005: Representatives Slaughter and
Conyers make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request
to Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge,
asking for all information the Secret Service has on
how one gains access to the White House press corps,
and how those policies were applied to Mr. Gannon –
The FOIA office is searching its records.
• Feb. 23, 2005: Representatives Slaughter and
Conyers write to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald
to note that Mr. Gannon claimed to have a journal chronicling
all 200 days he was given access to the White House
– Mr. Fitzgerald acknowledged receipt, but would
not comment on the status of his investigation.
• Feb. 23, 2005: Representatives Slaughter and
Conyers write to the GAO to ask that they include an
investigation of Mr. Gannon in their review of how the
Bush Administration has illegally used funds for propaganda
purposes – No response received to date.
• Feb. 25, 2005: Senators Durbin, Kerry, Kennedy,
Lautenburg and Reid write to the White House, requesting
a thorough investigation into Mr. Gannon’s White
House access and any security breaches that may have
resulted – No response received to date.
We categorically reject the contention of the Majority,
made at the markup that the Administration has already
complied with our requests. The fact is that all but
one of Mr. Conyers and Ms. Slaughters letters has gone
substantively unanswered, and the response they received
was grossly incomplete. As a result, nearly two months
after a series of inquiries were made to the Administration,
we still don’t know who in the White House arranged
for Mr. Gannon’s unfettered access to the president.
We further reject the Majority’s contention that
a request for information by the Committee would compete
with other investigations being conducted. First, we
are unaware of any current investigations of this scandal
by the Administration, Congress or the GAO. Even if
there were such an investigation, we are aware of no
rule or principle that impedes the Committee from simultaneously
conducting its own investigation. Indeed, one need look
no further that the Clinton Administration to find numerous
instances of Congress investigating allegations of misconduct
that were being separately investigated – from
travelgate, to allegations of improper campaign contributions,
to the impeachment of the president. Had such a limitation
on congressional prerogatives been obeyed by Congress
during the Watergate era, it is doubtful the Nixon Administration’s
full array of misconduct would have been unearthed.
It is also important to note, that by its terms, H.
Res. 136 is not binding on the Administration, it is
merely a request. If the Administration was aware of
some legal or other impediment to supplying the information,
they would be free to state as such. However, at least
we would have a higher level of public accountability.
By adversely reporting this Resolution, the Majority
simply makes it easier for the Administration to avoid
We dissent from the Majority’s decision to adversely
report this Resolution of Inquiry because we believe
the time is long past due for the Congress to demand
accountability from the Administration for its ethical
In our judgment it simply defies credibility that a
phony reporter, operating under an alias, who couldn’t
get privileges in the House or Senate press gallery,
could receives hundreds of White House “day passes”
without the intervention of someone very high up at
the White House. We are also unable to believe that
while Pulitzer Prize winning journalists have been turned
down for White House press passes, a neophyte, pseudo-journalist
working for a Republican-controlled media front operation
could receive virtually open-ended access to the White
House press room in the absence of preferential treatment.
In this context, we believe the full House is entitled
to vote on H. Res. 136 to present these questions directly
to the Administration.
published Apr. 5, 2005.