Our view: Defense officials want to reduce free speech

From Abu Ghraib to Walter Reed, the Department of Defense has been mired recently in a succession of scandals. In both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the military's civilian and uniformed leaders have also been asked by Congress to explain their decisions about troop deployments, economic reconstruction, friendly-fire casualties, and training of Iraqi and Afghan forces. In fulfilling their responsibility to oversee the military, members of Congress need access to the views of anyone in uniform, not just high-level officers.

But new Bush administration guidelines would limit Congress's freedom to get testimony from a wide range of service members and civilian Pentagon employees. The Department of Defense is reserving the right to bar enlisted personnel, career bureaucrats, and any officers below the rank of colonel from testifying to oversight committees or having their statements transcribed. ...

If the department itself had paid more attention to the voices of privates, it might not have allowed the appalling conditions in the outpatient quarters of Walter Reed hospital, for just one example, to become such a symbol of bureaucratic indifference and neglect. Congress should insist on hearing the testimony from anyone, civilian or military, in the Department of Defense.

The above editorial excerpt is from The Boston Globe.