Blog Lecture No. 22: Executive Sessions

With the resumption of the congressional hearings, let us discuss the matter of executive session.

The House Rules of the 13th Congress states:

Section 80. Sessions Open to the Public. – Sessions shall be open to the public, but when the security of the State or the dignity of the House or any of its Members are affected by any motion or petition being considered, the House may hold executive sessions.

Section 81. Executive Sessions. – When the House decides to hold an executive session, the Speaker shall direct the galleries and hallways to be cleared and the doors closed. Only the Secretary General, the Sergeant-At-Arms and other persons specifically authorized by the House shall be admitted to the executive session. They shall preserve the secrecy of everything read or discussed in the session.

Section 82. Confidential Documents. – When, by request of the House, confidential documents or papers marked as such, are transmitted to it by the President or a head of a department which require consideration in an executive session, their existence or contents shall not be revealed without leave of the House.

What is an executive session?

It is a non-public session where the galleries are cleared, hallways cleared and doors closed and only the Sergeant-At-Arms and other persons authorized by the House are admitted. Oh, don’t forget the congressmen…

When is this proper?

An executive session is held when security of the State or the dignity of the House or any of its Members are affected by any motion or petition being considered. (What? The House has dignity?…*joke*).

What happens there?

The session continues in secret. As a matter of fact, the members shall preserve the secrecy of everything read or discussed in the session. Also, confidential documents or papers marked as such, transmitted to it by the President or a head of a department which require consideration in an executive session shall not be revealed without leave of the House.

Anything else I need to know?

I like to repeat that questioning in committee sessions the Rules of Court does not apply. Hence, leading questions, questions without basis, etc. are allowed.

Last question, Mr. Chairman. What is your definition of national security?

I was scouring the web and this one culled from the Press Council of Peru’s Code of Ethics was the best I could find:

National Security should involve matters when “such is orientated to protect the territorial integrity of the country and in the exceptional circumstances of extreme violence that threatens the imminent collapse of the democratic order.”

Of course, the military would disagree with this definition. In fact, T/Sgt. Vidal Doble would think that even the number of mistresses he has (if at all, according to him) and their whereabouts (again, if at all) are matters of national security…

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