Americans justly pride themselves on having the most open government in the world. Aside from our intelligence services and certain aspects of the Justice Department, the business of governance is supposed to be conducted in sunlight. Anyone in the world with knowledge of the English language, access to a computer and the patience to learn a rather simple search system can visit the House of Representatives and the Senate and the Congressional Record for as detailed a view of the process of governance as has ever been available to a country's citizens in the history of the world.
Americans are also very attentive to Lord Acton's dictum concerning the propensity of power to corrupt. Through their elected representatives they have established various controls from time to time to assure impartial investigation and prosecution of malfeasance by elected or appointed officials. One such attempt was the Office of the Independent Counsel, established in 1978 in reaction to President Nixon's firing of Archibald Cox in order to forestall the investigation into Watergate. The statute authorizing the Office of Independent Counsel required that each counsel report to Congress the findings of the investigation of the incident(s) that gave rise to the appointment.
The OIC had a somewhat checkered history and the statute authorizing its existence was allowed to expire on September 11, 2001. At the time of its expiry there was one investigation remaining to be completed. That investigation initially concerned allegations that President Clinton's then Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Henry Cisneros, had made false statements to FBI agents during a background check. Mr. Cisneros plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge, paid a $10,000 fine and was one of those pardoned by President Clinton just before his exit from the White House.
It would seem that Independent Counsel David Barrett who was appointed in May of 1995 should have been able to write and publish his report sometime in the year 2000 from the facts presented by the Minority Report of the Committee on Government Reform. The report presents Counsel Barrett's failure to publish his report as if it were some sort of misbehavior on his part. It appears to allege that he is wasting money and that the Democratic Minority Report has actually found a major boondoggle worthy of close scrutiny.
It is odd that the Democratic Minority Report mentions not one word concerning the actual reasons that David Barrett's operation continues to this day. One might imagine that at least one Democrat might have noted Tony Snow's piece back in April when Senators Kerry, Dorgan and Durbin tried to kill funding so that Barrett's report would never see light. They might also have taken note of the Wall Street Journal editorial of October 7 or Byron York's NRO piece of October 25 or his subsequent piece on November 18. Finally, they might even have noted the meticulously buried item in their favorite paper, the Washington Post in an article on October 1.
The Post forgot to edit out one sentence that solves the entire mystery of 'the report which couldn't be buried'.
Barrett has expanded the probe to look into allegations that a regional Internal Revenue Service audit into Cisneros's payments to the mistress was transferred to Washington and then stifled.
What in the world does the Barrett report contain that requires three US Senators and the entire Democratic membership Committee on Government Reform (now that's chutzpah)to bury? Why did the Conference Committee overseeing IC Barrett agree to keep the most critical part of the report buried after the DC Court of Appeals finally halted the flood of motions by William & Connolly that sought to push the reports release into the 22nd Century?
Americans love a good mystery almost as much as they love sunshine. Independent Counsel Barrett has fought for disclosure to the very end. The order by a panel of the DC Court of Appeals that the "sealed" Section V of Barrett's final report be made available to nine named members of Congress for distribution by them to other members and staff is tantamount to tearing out the last chapter in a mystery novel.
The American public will hear of the published but restricted contents of Section V via anonymous leak and innuendo and the redacted portions will be subject to surmise based upon political advantage. The order by the Court of Appeals is a compromise that will satisfy no one.
Senator Chuck Grassley and the Hon. James Sensenbrenner should be encouraged to be more forceful on this issue. Directing the IRS to impede an investigation of the Executive is a matter requiring sunlight's disinfectant properties.
Sen. Chuck Grassley
135 Hart Senate Bldg.
Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr.
2449 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-4905
Telephone: (202) 225-5101