In July, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to Doha, Qatar to broker an agreement to combat terrorism-financing in the Gulf state. This came a month after several Arab powers disconnected ties with Qatar over alleged support for Iran and Islamist terrorist groups.
However, the deal is now under fire due to a bipartisan group of lawmakers demanding the Trump administration provide greater transparency of the U.S.-Qatar Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Members of Congress are concerned over the deal’s secrecy and are calling on the State Department to officially declassify the document.
“I read the letter and didn’t believe that the letter contained anything that shouldn’t be made transparent and readily available to the American people,” Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said to The Washington Free Beacon Wednesday. “If the MOU is made transparent and public, Congress would be able to more effectively and objectively measure the progress of the agreement.”
In a letter to Tillerson on Dec. 14, Banks, along with three other lawmakers who want to better assess Qatar’s compliance, sent a letter to the State Department to reconsider the classification of the agreement.
An excerpt of the letter from Banks, Reps. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), Scott Perry (R., Penn.), and Robert Pittenger (R., N.C.) can be read below:
“Senior administration officials have stated in both public settings that the MOU is evidence that progress is being made in the joint effort to fight terrorism and discourage terror financing. While we sincerely support the joint initiative, by not having direct, consistent access to the MOU because of classification, the legislative branch is unable to effectively and objectively measure this reported progress.”
Banks believes the classification of the deal is raising more questions than answers about the process of the U.S.-Qatar agreement.
In November, the State Department allowed Congress to view the document four months after its signing. However, the viewing was only for a few hours and under strict supervision.
Representative Josh Gottheimer (D., N.J.), along with Banks, claims he didn’t see any classified material from the document, and that the deal did not specify the consequences Qatar would face if it failed to make significant progress on combatting terrorism-financing, according to The Washington Post.
“I want to see more concrete steps on how the administration plans to enforce it,” Gottheimer said. “There weren’t enough specifics and teeth. … Treasury hasn’t been aggressive enough.”
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