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Signing Statements Take Heat Off War Contractors

With little fanfare yesterday, President Bush signed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008, which lays out $696 billion in Pentagon spending. The President publicly praised some parts of the bill, like a 3.5 percent pay raise for the troops, but he didn’t like other things. So he’s going to ignore them.

In a White House press release, Bush cited four provisions of the bill that “could inhibit the President from carrying out constitutional obligations…as Commander in Chief.” That includes Section 841, which sets up a commission on wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The eight-member commission would be appointed by the President and Congress to investigate federal agency’s practice in handing out contracts, and waste, fraud and abuse committed by private contractors.

So the Justice Department and Congress’s House Oversight Committee will continue with probes into how specific contractors like Blackwater and Haliburton have profited from Iraq. But it looks like there will not be a tidy, comprehensive independent commission report detailing the relationships established between these companies and the Departments of State and Defense.

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