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Senate holds rare closed session on Iraq intelligence

[JURIST] Invoking a rare procedure, the US Senate held a closed session Tuesday to discuss continuing controversy over the intelligence on alleged weapons of mass destruction used by President Bush leading up to the Iraq war. The main issue raised was the incomplete second phase of an investigation by Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts [official website] into the administration's use of the intelligence. The session resulted in the appointment of a six-member task force to review the work of the Intelligence Committee.

Closed sessions [Congressional backgrounder; PDF] in Congress exclude the public and press and are only held on matters deemed confidential and secret. Members and staff are prohibited from divulging information and transcripts from the proceedings are rarely published. The procedural device, which can be used by either the Senate or the House, is an implied power based on Article I, Section 5 [text] of the US Constitution. The rules for a closed Senate proceeding [official website] require a motion by one Senator, with a second by another; House rules [official website] are similar. Historically [Congressional historical overview; PDF], closed sessions have only been used to discuss impeachment trials, issues of national security, and sensitive communications from the President. The last time the Senate held a closed session was during the impeachment trial deliberations for President Clinton [CNN file story] in 1999. Since 1812, the House has met only five times in a closed session, and all sessions dealt with matters of national security and trade. AP has more.

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