Holding Them Accountable

The Bush administration has taken historically unprecedented steps in its assertions of executive privilege and authority. For instance, the Vice President has fought over relatively modest requests to disclose information such as with whom he consulted when setting the Administration's energy policy. The Vice President's office, during a confrontation with the National Archives over executive branch records, even declared itself an entity outside of the executive branch with enhanced powers to resist the public's right to know about its actions.

These assertions of executive privilege have wide-ranging implications for both Congress' day-to-day oversight of the Bush administration and for efforts to hold the President and Vice President accountable.

That is why I introduced the Executive Branch Prosecutions Act. This legislation would suspend the statute of limitations for crimes committed while the president and vice president hold office. Federal law currently suspends the statute of limitations for crimes related to national security. That suspension should extend to any crime committed by the President or Vice President while in office.

President Bush has already shown his willingness to do what he can to avoid scrutiny of his actions even after he leaves office. A federal judge recently struck down part of his 2001 Executive Order giving former presidents and vice presidents the right to review executive orders before they are made public under the Freedom of Information Act. Confronted with this administration's unprecedented demand for secrecy, Congress must do all it can to inject some measure of accountability and transparency where possible. The Executive Branch Prosecutions Act goes a long way toward accomplishing that goal.