With President Obama about to offer an alternative version of an August request for a troop surge from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, I checked back in to see if there's been any renewed interest in McChrystal's classified report on Capitol Hill.
McChrystal's classified report on the war in Afghanistan supposedly includes his determination that as many as a half-million U.S. troops will be needed to complete the mission there over a five year period.
But most lawmakers probably haven't seen that startling figure, or the rest of the classified report for that matter, because, just as when I first checked in at the end of October, few seem to lining up to read it — despite the fact that they will soon have to decide whether to approve funding for a big troop increase.
The report has been available for more than a month.
“It's shameful if you haven't read the report,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. “It's one of the most important issues of our day. We are talking about the lives of a hundred thousand Americans. “You have no excuse not to show up and do your job and read the report.”
Senate and House aides have declined to disclose the list of which lawmakers have signed in to read McChrystal's assessment and they would not even provide a number. Because it is classified, only lawmakers and some top staff can read it and they must sign in to a secret room to view it.
House Armed Services Committee spokesperson Laura Battles told that the number of lawmakers who have read the material is also classified information. Senate Armed Services Committee aides made the same assertion.
A tipster told us weeks ago that few Senators and House members have taken an interest in the report, and an informal survey seems to back that up. I did my own semi-random sampling of more than a dozen members. Only three said they had read any of it.
“I have not read it,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who is wary of funding another troop increase. Brown would not commit to reading the report before making a decision on supplemental war funding and said he has talked to McChrystal in person. “I'm not going to commit to reading one thing or another.”
Leadership aides point out that most of the document had already been leaked to the Washington Post, which posted a redacted version on the Internet. But the classified report includes six additional pages, plus material that was redacted from the leaked version, including the 500,000 troop figure initially reported by NBC's Andrea Mitchell.
“I can't remember whether I read the classified or the declassified report. I can't remember,” said Ike Skelton, D-Mo., Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, when I asked him about it last month.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a top member of the Senate Armed Services panel, said the classified report would answer many of the questions lawmakers are now asking about why the troop increase is needed.
“The McChrystal report is a brilliant report,” he said.