Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Thomas Kean And Lee Hamilton: Our Investigation Was Obstructed

After the epic misbehavior of congressional Republicans last year, I would strongly suggest to congressional Democrats, if they would listen to the likes of me, that's it's time for them to consider a show trial.

Today's New York Times ran an op-ed piece by Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the 9/11 Commission. They state flatly in "Stonewalled by the CIA" that officials obstructed the panel's investigation when they did not reveal those now-destroyed videotapes made of interrogations of al Qaeda operatives.

Here are the first three paragraphs of the article:

More than five years ago, Congress and President Bush created the 9/11 commission. The goal was to provide the American people with the fullest possible account of the "facts and circumstances relating to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001" - and to offer recommendations to prevent future attacks. Soon after its creation, the president's chief of staff directed all executive branch agencies to cooperate with the commission.

The commission's mandate was sweeping and it explicitly included the intelligence agencies. But the recent revelations that the C.I.A. destroyed videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives leads us to conclude that the agency failed to respond to our lawful requests for information about the 9/11 plot. Those who knew about those videotapes - and did not tell us about them - obstructed our investigation.

There could have been absolutely no doubt in the mind of anyone at the C.I.A. - or the White House - of the commission's interest in any and all information related to Qaeda detainees involved in the 9/11 plot. Yet no one in the administration ever told the commission of the existence of videotapes of detainee interrogations.


This could go pretty high, if we have a Congress with the will to pursue it. The events of last year have left me pessimistic on that score. The Democratic leadership would have to be ready to conduct high-profile hearings, Watergate-style, and ignore the inevitable accusations of election-year grandstanding. It's time to get the bulldozers out, so to speak, and run right over any obstruction by Republicans.

I'm not going to hold my breath. I wish someone would take Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid off to see the Wizard so he could give them some courage. Problem is, I think the Wizard may be somebody in the current administration ("Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!")

It isn't a matter of doing political damage to Republicans during an election year. (But hey, why turn down a lucky perk?) The principle is that this administration, already given a pass on so many outrages, mustn't be allowed this one. It's no slippery slope to see that if you permit someone to cheat today, they'll be emboldened and more likely to try it again tomorrow.

Hey Dems: It's time for full-blown, played to the cameras, congressional hearings on this blatant cover-up. Lawyer up, everybody.

To read the complete op-ed piece by Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, go here.

Crossposted at Manifesto Joe.