Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Sunday, November 05, 2006

  Accountability at the Pentagon, Part II

In the first installment, I explained several reasons to be suspicious of the President's nomination of David H. Laufman to be the next Inspector General of the Defense Department. There are gaping holes in his qualifications to run such an office. Furthermore, Laufman looks to be a Bush family loyalist and Republican partisan. He has participated in two high profile investigations of Bush pere, which turned into whitewashes.

Besides all that, Congress has plenty of reason to be concerned about the nominee, or any nominee, to the post of IG of the Defense Department. It is a huge and hugely complicated job, with vast implications for national defense as well as for the federal budget.

In any case, Bush's two earlier appointments to this post have behaved in a manipulative and deceptive manner (to say the least). That's where I'll begin this installment.

The current Acting Inspector General, Thomas Gimble, most notoriously has rebuffed requests for an investigation of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping by pretending that the matter was already under investigation by the IG at NSA. That investigation was a crock, however, as Zoe Lofgren remarked:

The Department of Defense’s Acting Inspector General, Mr. Thomas F. Gimble, has refused requests by members of Congress that he investigate this program. Mr. Gimble referred those requests to the Inspector General of the NSA, who he claimed was already actively reviewing this program.

Yet, in subsequent news reports, it was revealed that the NSA review to which Mr. Gimble so swiftly deferred was not a new review but a long-standing audit, which would not review the legality of NSA’s activities.

Gimble's predecessor, Joseph Schmitz, was to all appearances an out and out crook:

The Pentagon's top investigator has resigned amid accusations that he stonewalled inquiries into senior Bush administration officials suspected of wrongdoing.

Defense Department Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz told staffers this week that he intended to resign as of Sept. 9 to take a job with the parent company of Blackwater USA, a defense contractor.

The resignation comes after Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) sent Schmitz several letters this summer informing him that he was the focus of a congressional inquiry into whether he had blocked two criminal investigations last year.

Who in their right mind would NOT worry, then, that Bush's third nominee to this post will also try to cover up rather than expose wrongdoing?

:: :: :: :: :: ::

That has particular urgency now that the most sensitive part of the "Phase Two" investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has been delegated to the Defense Department Office of Inspector General. Sen. Pat Roberts insisted on handing the investigation of this explosive issue over to the IG's Office, no doubt in the hopes that the Pentagon would somehow quash the whole thing.

It is the part of "Phase Two" that looks into whether the Office of Special Plans (in the Pentagon) stove-piped bad intelligence directly to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, bypassing normal intelligence analysts. That was of course one of the purposes for creating the Office of Special Plans in the first place. The charge that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence before declaring war on Iraq is the very thing that Pat Roberts has been so very keen to bury since demands for a Senate investigation began three years ago.

Here is what we learned in June about the status of this part of the "Phase Two" investigation.

This area is virtually the sole project of Sen. Levin, who has been acutely interested in the work of the office's former chief, Douglas Feith. Levin has accused Feith of distorting, exaggerating, inventing, or manipulating intelligence about the connections between Iraq and al Qaeda and about Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities -- and then deceiving Congress about it. Committee chairman Pat Roberts has said his panel found no credible evidence to support Levin's charges and referred the matter to the Pentagon's inspector general for review. Now, nothing will be done in this area until the Pentagon gives its findings to the committee -- which could take months.

So the bitter partisan divide on the Intelligence Committee was hanging in mid-air this summer, when Laufman's nomination made its way in July before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Unfortunately for Mr. Laufman, Carl Levin is the Ranking Member of this Committee.

In the advance questions (PDF) that the Armed Services Committee sent to Laufman, he was asked pointedly whether he'd cooperate with the "Phase Two" investigation:

29. The Office of the Inspector General is currently conducting an investigation into the activities of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy related to pre-war intelligence on Iraq and the purported links between Iraq and al Qaeda. This investigation is being conducted in response to requests from the Senate.

If confirmed, will you ensure that this investigation has the resources it needs, proceeds without hindrance, is conducted in an independent and unbiased manner, and that the results of the investigation are provided promptly to Congress?

ANSWER: I have been advised that this evaluation is being performed within the Office of the Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence, and that the draft report is expected in November 2006.

If confirmed, I will review the status of this matter and determine whether it is receiving the necessary resources and is proceeding in an independent manner without hindrance. When the matter is concluded and a report has been completed, I will ensure that the report is provided to Congress.

Rather curiously, Mr. Laufman does not quite say he would ensure the results "are provided promptly to Congress". He assures the Committee only that they would be provided to Congress. Since it was Congress that had requested the investigation, I would put that response down in the column "Things not to say".

It was joined in that column by several more of Laufman's responses to the questionnaire, as I will discuss in the next installment tomorrow.


  • So like where is part three of the blog. Been waiting for a couple of days now.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:13 AM  

  • I'll try to finish that last post in the next day. I'd like to edit it back a bit, because as it stands it's very long.

    Sorry for the delay, I've been distracted by election-type things.

    By Blogger : smintheus ::, at 12:25 PM  

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