Republican senators raise questions on Iran statement

Republican senators raise questions on Iran statement

Three senior Republican senators are demanding answers to questions raised by an exclusive report in The Cable that revealed the involvement of the National Security Council in the Broadcasting Board of Governor’s actions regarding Iran.

In the Feb. 18 story, which was also reprinted in the Washington Post, we reported that the NSC had been involved in negotiating the wording of a statement on Iranian media censorship that was eventually issued by the Voice of America, a subsidiary of the BBG, as well as the British Broadcasting Company and Deutsche Welle. The NSC’s involvement was seen by some as an inappropriate violation of the "firewall" that is supposed to exist between the administration and the BBG, which should be operating independently.

Sens. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, Sam Brownback, R-KS, and Tom Coburn, R-OK sent a letter (pdf) Tuesday to BBG President Jeff Trimble demanding a full accounting of the actions of the NSC and the State Department in dealing with the BBG before it eventually issued the statement, which criticized Iran for its jamming of international satellites.

"If true, these actions constitute serious violations of U.S law, policy, and tradition related to the editorial independence of the taxpayer-funded Broadcasting Board of Governors. We believe it is important for you to address the claims made in the article," the letter stated.

"We also believe it’s important for you to publicly indicate whether representatives of the administration, including officials of the National Security Council, the Executive Office of the President, or the State Department, were involved in any way in the drafting, preparation, or clearance" of the statement.

The senators demanded that Trimble identify the specific individuals who were involved in the statement, state whether anyone at State raised concerns about possible violation of the editorial "firewall" between the administration and the BBG, and detail all of the BBG’s activities related to Iran since last June’s election.

Several BBG nominees are pending confirmation in the Senate, the letter noted.

An NSC official, speaking to The Cable on background basis, admitted that the NSC held a series of interagency meetings on the issue after the BBG asked the council for advice and defended the interaction as "appropriate."

"The BBG approached the NSC for guidance regarding a specific request from BBC and Deutsche Welle to issue a joint statement with VOA," the official said. "The NSC then worked with State and BBG to review the content of such a statement to ensure it was both factually accurate and legally sound; the NSC endorsed the issuance of a joint statement, and a strong statement was indeed issued."