Information of the People

Thursday, December 01, 2005
"The information of the people at large can alone make them safe as they are the sole depositary of our political and religious freedom." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1810.

Rick Ballard, in Arlington National Archives (below) notes that the National Archives are where some reports of Independent Counsel are published for all to read and use as they see fit and others sent to rest in something other than peace, away from public view.

It is curious that some matters are made available for public perusal via the National Archives website and others are not. Independent Counsel reports regarding Watergate and Iran-Contra are readily available. Yet the reports of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr (Whitewater, etc) and Donald Smaltz (Clinton Agriculture Secretary, Mike Espy) are not - one needs to peruse university or legal sites for those reports.

Is this a matter of budgetary or staffing constraints or something else? Has the Nation Archives simply not yet caught up with the years of the Clinton administration regarding the publishing of impeachment and OIC information or have they chosen, as a matter of policy, not to publish documents that might reflect badly upon a beloved former POTUS?

In Congressional Omerta, we are made aware of an effort by a joint oversight committee to prevent release to the general public of Section V of the report by Independent Counsel David Barrett. Barrett was the IC charged with investigating Henry Cisneros (Clinton Housing and Urban Development Secretary). On the surface it might seem that Barrett's report about his investigations may be deemed insufficiently important - legally or otherwise - to warrant publication. The HUD Secretary's lies to the FBI regarding his philandering and funds shifting were of no lasting national import or damage. He plead guilty and paid a fine.

While it is impossible to know precisely what Section V of Barrett's report contains it is a reasonable guess that it is related to the investigation of the potential misuse of the Internal Revenue Service for political purposes. Barrett twice sought and was granted expansion of his investigation to include potential misuse of, or misbehavior by, the IRS. And it is apparently that portion of the report that a DC appeals court has ruled should be released only to specific members of congress rather than to the public.

The DC court of appeals ruling seems to leave ample room for those members of congress who receive Section V to make it public as they see fit. The joint oversight commission could, I believe, authorize release of Section V to the archives. Will they? If not, why not?"

The federal government belongs to us. The Internal Revenue Service is an agency of our government. Independent Counsel, whether a good idea or not, were duly authorized investigative agents of our government. Investigation is meant to discover and, ultimately, to inform.

The ways by which We the People can become poorly informed or inattentive are as many and varied as those who would prefer us in that condition. Burying information clearly hinders our ability to remain informed. Is the failure of the press to cover the burial of that portion of Barrett's report which documents his investigation into potential abuse of the IRS an attempt to manage our attentiveness?

"If once [the people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787

More than a century later a similar warning was issued to We the People:

The death-knell of the republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens... but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others. Theodore Roosevelt, Sept 7, 1903

In whose interests is it to have the National Archives behave so selectively in their publication of Independent Counsel reports? What special class is protected by the suppression of the Smaltz report? Or of the Starr report?

Why is the press so inattentive regarding Section V of the Barrett report? One might imagine the press would be very much interested in a report which very likely contains information regarding potential abuse of the powers of the IRS by the Executive.

The Founders and subsequent national leaders repeatedly warned us about the misuse of government power and the need for an active and impartial press to help keep us informed and attentive. The Congressional joint oversight committee's failure to bring forth information concerning possible misuse of the IRS by "wolves" and the curious practices at the National Archive are among the more dangerous abuses of power and discretion in recent times.

The failure of the press to exhibit even mild curiosity regarding potential IRS abuse - and congressional grave digging - is puzzling. While the press gets itself in a lathered frenzy about Scooter Libby and the leak that didn't even drip, they "impartially" ignore potential misuse of the IRS by the previous executive. It's a shame - theirs and ours.


terrye said...

Too bad this information was not put in the hands of the CIA, with a big fat TOP SECRET stamped on it, they would have rushed it off to both the NYT and WaPo.

clarice said...

HEH! Now there's an idea!

Eddie M. said...

This is a lot more intriguing story than the supposed 'outing' of a non-covert, covert agent.

Its telling that the press (most)have ignored it. I hope it gets full public attention.