Friday, October 31, 2003

Long Distance Runaround

Nasty Nasty

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ten lawmakers whose trip to North Korea was canceled by the White House have sent a scathing letter to President Bush, complaining of the "arrogant and disrespectful" treatment from his national security advisers.

The five Republicans and five Democrats said they were offended "and believe you are being ill-served by your National Security Council staff." A copy of the 5 1/2-page letter, dated Thursday, was obtained by The Associated Press.


The lawmakers' letter said they don't believe a president has ever prohibited congressional travel, except to an active war zone.

"It is extremely ironic that in this case you canceled military transport of a bipartisan delegation that is in total and complete support of your state foreign policy agenda in North Korea," they said.

Weldon had contacted the White House within an hour of receiving the North Korean invitation on Oct. 13, the letter said. But it wasn't until Oct. 23, two days before the trip, that White House chief of staff Andrew Card called Weldon to say the administration was pulling its support for the trip. No one in the National Security Council staff had called before to express concerns about the trip, the lawmakers said.

The letter said there had also been problems related to a congressional delegation Weldon led to North Korea in May. Citing an unidentified military officer, it said national security adviser Condoleezza Rice had called the Defense Department at one point to say the trip had been canceled. The Pentagon did not tell them the mission could leave until one day before the scheduled departure.

The letter said the National Security Council had "irresponsibly fabricated, with malicious intent, a rumor" that the May delegation had passed a 30-page document to North Korean officials, presenting it as "some type of sinister leak of information."

The document was actually a 48-page report on U.S.-Russians relation available on the Internet, the letter said.