Tuesday, May 18, 2021
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Nov 11

Written by: Diana West
Friday, November 11, 2011 2:12 AM 

I don't get this. Two US Senators, Claire McCaskill and Jim Webb, co-sponsor legislation in 2008 to create a commission to investigate wartime contracting. Commission investigates -- finding between $31 and $60 billion in fraud and waste in contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and shuts down in September 2011. (Isn't there still wartime contracting in progress in A-stan? Oh well.) Also in September, the commission transfers its no doubt voluminous records to the National Archive and suggests? asks? stipulates? that the records be under seal for twenty years. 

Does a Senate-created, taxpayer-funded "commission" have the legal authority to do that?

Well, it did.

Sens. McCaskill and Webb had no idea the wartime contracting commission they helped create had taken steps to deep-six the evidence for almost a generation. In a letter of November 7 written to David S. Fierro, National Archivist of the US, they write:

We learned of this development after the fact.  The Commission did not seek the advice or involvement of appropriate congressional committees or staff in formulating its recommendation to you.  As the two original cosponsors of the legislation creating the Commission in 2008, we are troubled by this lengthy and excessive delay in making the Commission’s records available to the public.  We ask that the National Archives make a full disclosure of the Commission’s files and records as quickly as possible, consistent with protections for privacy, proprietary information, and other applicable laws.

The importance of public disclosure relates directly to the Commission’s original legislative mandate—to assess contingency contracting for reconstruction, logistics, and security functions; to examine the extent of waste, fraud, and abuse; and to improve the structure, policies, and resources for managing the contracting process and contractors.  The Commission’s own work stressed the importance of increasing transparency and accountability for contracting operations. ..

The enduring importance of the Commission’s work, however, did not end when it terminated its operations five weeks ago.  Commission records constitute a very important source of reference material for the public at large, journalists, professional associations, academicians, historians, and others.  Simply stated, we need to live in the light.  Sealing records for 20 years is inconsistent with the goals we established for the Commission when Congress acted to create the Commission three years ago.

More timely, accurate, and substantial disclosure of the nonpublic materials provided by the Commission will help to achieve the transparency that the American taxpayer deserves. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter and look forward to your response at the earliest convenience.    

It's the age-old conflict in our overblown democratic republic: exposure vs. secrecy. Secrecy usually wins.

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