No Right To Know


New at Reason: Jonathan Rauch on why the 9/11 commision should not be open to the public.

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  1. Excellent article! Reason surprised me again (advocating “secret” testimony) 🙂

    There is a trade-off between our urge to want to know & the witnesses’ willingness to speak frankly. If we want them to testify publicly, they will simply cover their ass.

    Hopefully the people in charge (Senate/House intelligence committee or some such) are doing a better job in private than the grandstanding commissioners.

  2. OT – EU constitution and UK stuff …

    UK Vote Dismays EU

    EURSOC Two
    21 April, 2004
    Tony Blair’s decision to allow Britain to vote on the European Constitution has been met with dismay in other EU capitals.
    France’s president Jacques Chirac is reported to be in a particular fix. He is under strong domestic pressure – from what the Guardian describes as “virtually the entire French political class” to call a referendum. The president, still smarting from a spanking in March’s regional elections, and waiting with some trepidation for another in June’s EU vote, is wary of offering voters yet another chance to tan his hide.

    – – – –

    pols the world over, not really wanting to hear from the pople they supposedly represent 🙂

  3. Jonathan Rauch (as usual) pretty much hit the nail on the head here. This should be about improving procedures and tactics, not about searching for a scapegoat and getting your face on the news.

    Of course, it’s Washington. Lots of luck on that one.

  4. That`s it keep us in the dark and feed us shit.

  5. They wanted Condi testifying under oath because they didn’t believe they could trust her “candid” testimony. Given her past dissembling, that makes perfect sense. An official who wants to parse “imminent” cannot be taken at her word alone.

    And with regard to Mr. Rauch’s handwringing that Condi had to prepare for this commission- she is on my TV every Sunday, talking to anyone who will listen about how hurtfull and wrong O’Niel, Clarke, Woodward, etc… are.

    And those HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH NATIONAL DEFENSE. It is well within the job description of the NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR to be called before a commission to testify on NATIONAL SECURITY.

    So, Rauch, you can save that argument about Condi preparing for the commission for someone who doesn’t see her dropping the ball on a daily basis to give interviews that have fuck all to do with her job of keeping us safe.

  6. Pretty ironic that a blog post advocating governmental secrecy in regards to a national tragedy here and the same day on the same blog another saying:
    North Korean television was broadcasting military songs and music — standard evening fare.

    An explosion may have killed as many people as 9/11, and yet that’s what you find in the local media. Is there any modern society more closed, more afraid of information, than this one?

  7. apparently it is too much to expect people to understand the simple thing:

    “if you haul someone in front of the TV and grandstand, they will try to cover their ass”

    we all want to know what the hell is going on, but nobody is going to tell the truth with this 911 commission setup. haven’t we seen each side trying to pin the blame on the other side? is that what you wanted to “see” to be informed citizens?

    I would be OK with this public show, if there is another “commission” who can (even in private) get these public servants to speak frankly so they can do their jobs better in the future.

  8. zorel,

    Chirac didn’t lose the March elections; Raffarin (the Prime Minister) did. Chirac remains very popular (64% approval rating as of last month right before the election). Please, understand the structure of our government before you comment on it, or cut and paste from others commenting on it.

    And Chirac is far more dismayed because he promised such a referendum in the 2002 Presidential election, than merely the fact that Blair is calling for such. Furthermore, Blair wants the referendum after the upcoming election in the UK; to which the Tories are howling about.

    Johnathan Rauch,

    The problem of course with your analysis regarding witnesses is that you appear to think that they are the primary source of information in such an investigation; they aren’t.

  9. zorel,

    You also make the rather foolish and ignorant assumption that witnesses are the primary source of information in such investigations; they aren’t. It is the paper trail; e-mails; recorded phone conversations; etc. that is the primary source. Indeed, that is part of the reason why these documents exist.

  10. JB,

    So if they have most of the information in the documentation, affidavits, recordings, what-have-you, what is the point of putting someone up there in front of the committee if not to ‘score points’? The point that the main response to a public grilling is CYA is still valid, and still contrary to the goals of reforming the procedures that led to the breakdowns. If the witnesses, as you say, aren’t primary sources of information, why are they there then? As it seemed from the coverage here, the answer was ‘scoring partisan points’. The entire dog and pony show did absolutely zero towards preventing future attacks, and just gave more opportunity to ratchet up the rhetoric. I thought it was a good point that the public testimony was, at best, a distraction from the actual work of the commission and at worst a seemingly unending series of cheap shots at the other side.

  11. We live in a democracy. Our votes determine who will be in power. These people will make decisions on how domestic and foreign policy are handled in the US. This means after seeing the testimony you can vote Dem or Rep based on how you feel they did.

    So public opinion matters. You could argue that democracy is mob rule and the voters are ignorant twits compared with those “in-the-know” but that really questions quite a bit more than the 9/11 commission.

  12. They wanted Condi testifying under oath because they didn’t believe they could trust her “candid” testimony.

    Because there is certainly no chance of someone dissembling or giving less-than-candid testimony once you put them under oath…

    … depending on what the definition of “is” is, that is.

  13. We live in a democracy. Our votes determine who will be in power. These people will make decisions on how domestic and foreign policy are handled in the US. This means after seeing the testimony you can vote Dem or Rep based on how you feel they did. So public opinion matters.

    It sounds like you’re conceding the point here, and accepting that the whole point of the commission is to pin blame on one party or the other.

    In theory, at least, the purpose of the commission is to figure out what the holes are in our intelligence and counter-espionage capabilities. That is best accomplished in a closed discussion; otherwise (as has happened) the Democrats and Republicans devote all of their effort to conning the American people, rather than to finding solutions to problems.

    If Congress wants to have an open-to-the-public “Let’s find a way to pin this on Bush/Clinton/whoever” three-ring circus, fine. Let them do it. But could we please actually have a real investigation, that might actually yield useful data, that *isn’t* open to the public, as well?

  14. Jean Bart,

    You are either stupid or illiterte to assume I said that “Chiraq” lost the elections – the whole damn thing I posted at the top was from the damn article whose link I provided at the bottom of that. So people can read it if they cared about the topic.

    Where did I make the assumption that witnesses were the primary source of info? We all seemed to have missed the part where the 9-11 commissioner were going over the “documents” on public TV (that was sarcastic). The grandstanding was mainly when they questioned the “witnesses” – not when they were reading documents. That is the reason I was talking about “witnesses”. I know why documents exist. WTH are you trying to teach us?

    Don’t assume shit and use “asinine” adjectives to describe your presumptions.

    Thank you.

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