Once again the People don't matter
A federal court judge on Wednesday extended for the fifth time an order barring a former investigator for the U.N. oil-for-food probe from turning over documents to U.S. congressional committees.
The delay, until July 13, was granted by U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina in Washington. All parties have asked for repeated delays while they try to work out an agreement.
The restraining order, first issued on May 9, blocks Robert Parton, a former FBI agent, from handing over boxes of documents to two congressional committees that subpoenaed them after he resigned from the U.N.-appointed Independent Inquiry Committee.
Parton left the probe, led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, believing the inquiry ignored evidence critical of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose son worked for a company that received a lucrative contract in Iraq under the $67 billion program.
Parton took thousands of files with him, which the Volcker inquiry says violated a confidentiality agreement, could put witnesses at risk and jeopardize its investigation.
The documents were given in response to a subpoena to the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, headed by Illinois Republican Rep. Henry Hyde. Another House committee and one in the Senate then filed their own subpoenas.
In its suit against Parton, the United Nations does not ask for the documents in the possession of Hyde's panel, but tries to prevent them from being distributed to other committees.
Annan appointed the Volcker probe last year to investigate fraud in the oil-for-food program, which began in 1996. Under the deal, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government could sell oil to buy goods to ease the impact of U.N. sanctions on ordinary Iraqis. The sanctions were imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Parton said he kept the documents to back up his allegations that the investigation was flawed. The Volcker panel says the documents belong to its inquiry and it needs to have jurisdiction over their distribution and to protect witnesses.