Team Obama convenes major secret meeting on export controls

Team Obama convenes major secret meeting on export controls

Top cabinet officials are meeting right now with top lawmakers behind closed doors on Capitol Hill to begin a push for major export control reform.

Administration attendees for the unannounced meeting include Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, National Security Advisor Jim Jones, Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. The lawmakers invited include the leadership of both parties and then chairmen and ranking Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs, House and Senate Armed Services, and Senate Banking committees, according to an invitation forwarded to The Cable.

The secret meeting was organized by the State Department’s legislative affairs office and is being hosted by House Foreign Affairs chairman Howard Berman, D-CA.

"The Administration requested this briefing so Secretary Gates and other senior officials could inform key House and Senate leaders about progress on the President’s export control policy review, which the Administration announced last August," said HFA spokeswoman Lynne Weil, when contacted for comment, "The Foreign Affairs Committee has jurisdiction in the House over export control matters, and Chairman Berman is developing legislation in coordination with the White House to overhaul the U.S. export control system."

Some Senate staffers were upset by the secretive nature of the meeting, because staff was excluded and no details were made available in advance of the pow-wow. Republicans are concerned that the Obama administration may be preparing to loosen export control regulations, which they see as a dangerous concession to parts of the business sector that increases risks of technology and innovation losses to countries such as China.

Inside the meeting, administration officials might also raise their concerns about two important issues that are emerging as differences between the Obama administration and Congressional leadership. The Senate is planning to move Iran sanctions legislation whether the White House thinks it’s a good idea or not.

Also, the White House is said to be angry at lawmakers for leaking news of the impending announcement of new arms sales to Taiwan. There are rumors that Jones contacted foreign relations committee leadership offices to yesterday to complain about the leaks, but the members declined to take his calls.