Thursday, September 15, 2005


Should Katrina Investigation Be Independent?


Lynn Sweet notes Democrats want equality with Republicans in investigating the response of federal, state and local officials to Hurricane Katrina:
Congressional Democrats and Republicans are facing off over the nature of a commission probing how governments at all levels failed to prepare for and respond to Hurricane Katrina.

Democrats are stepping up their demand for an independent committee to investigate the botched relief effort, calling for a panel modeled somewhat along the lines of the 9/11 Commission.

Rejecting the notion of an independent panel, this afternoon the GOP-controlled House is scheduled to vote on the creation of a congressional committee to review state, local and federal response to the disaster. The panel will have 11 Republicans and nine Democrats, and it was not clear Wednesday night if Democrats would have any subpoena power.
Good for the House. Too bad the Senate is unlikely to do this any time soon. Democrats just can't accept the fact that they aren't equal to Republicans -- elections matter.

Also, we don't need any more 'independent' investigative panels like the Sep 11 Commission, which, though formally disbanded, still(!) has its own agenda. (As it has seemingly from the moment of its inception.) Consider its reaction to the latest Able Danger revelations. AJStrata comments:
The 9-11 Commission has made a very strange move one week out from Senate hearings on Able Danger: they claim Able Danger cannot back its claim of identifying four of the 9-11 highjackers and trying to alert the FBI of the presence of Al Qaeda in the US in the summer of 2000. Like they would know?
Former members of the Sept. 11 commission on Wednesday dismissed assertions that a Pentagon intelligence unit identified lead hijacker Mohamed Atta as an member of al-Qaida long before the 2001 attacks.
Note that the commission doesn'’t address the full Able Danger claim - identifying possible AQ in country and trying to alert the FBI. The statement only mentions one terrorist: Atta.

How do they know the Able Danger team is wrong? Especially after the Pentagon did a complete '‘about face'’ as a result of their review of their files: which dwarfs the material the 9-11 commission was allowed to retain on the subject.
Kean said the recollections of the intelligence officers cannot be verified by any document.

"Bluntly, it just didn'’t happen and that'’s the conclusion of all 10 of us,"” said a former commissioner, ex-Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash.
Really? Then what caused the 9-11 commission to rush back to the US and start researching the claims? How could some small program that simply identified possible Al Qaeda members cause the 9-11 Commission to scramble so breathlessly to get information from the DoD if it was not tied to 9-11? The record of the commission’s reactions to Shaffer'’s claims in Afghanistan are completely at odds with this current position.

Gorton and Kean, please tell us what caused your mad scramble then? I strongly suggest you be prepared to answer that question, and back it up with internal documentation and notes, before next week!
Captain Ed reacts to Gorton's statement:
Exactly how the ten commissioners came up with this consensus never gets explained by Kean or Gorton. Thanks to the work of their staffers, none of them ever heard testimony from either Col. Tony Shaffer, the DIA liaison, nor Captain Scott Phillpott, the program's director. Neither did they speak with civilian contractor J. D. Smith, whose work produced the documentation which has since disappeared. They don't even acknowledge that the Pentagon itself, while announcing that they could not find the program's data, did find three more witnesses that corroborate Phillpott, Smith, and Shaffer.

If one had to concoct a scenario which shows the methodology of the 9/11 Commission, it could hardly illuminate it better than this. Without hearing witnesses nor reviewing evidence, the Commission reached a hard and fast conclusion that, not coincidentally, fits within their determined narrative. They give no explanation for their blunt statement of "fact", and present no deliberation. Apparently the discovery of evidence that doesn't fit within their report makes the evidence untrue, no matter how many witnesses come forward to verify it.

To put it bluntly, as Slade Gorton says, the Commission did nothing but put a quasi-official imprimatur on a series of speculations that have collapsed since the discovery of Able Danger and other revelations about what the Commission missed in its investigation. It wrote the report it wanted to write, and ignored evidence and testimony that discredited its conclusions. The board of bureaucrats recommended an expanded bureaucracy while blaming operational personnel for not "connecting the dots", ignoring the fact that the bureaucracy -- aided by one of the Commissioners themselves -- created a Byzantine legal environment which actively suppressed the data-sharing necessary to make the proper analysis.

Now they want to shade their eyes and cover their ears as the evidence they missed or actively ignored comes to light. Let them. It will only demonstrate their lack of investigatory detachment and marriage to their preconceived narratives all the more.
Regarding an independent panel to investigate Katrina, I agree with Captain Ed's conclusion:
It's precisely this kind of unaccountable hackery that should advise against creating even more independent commissions that allow Congress to avoid the political responsibility for doing its own investigations.
And I'm really looking forward to those Able Danger hearings next week.


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