I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A new Beltway term -- "Oversight"

It has been six long, dysfunctional years since it made an appearance in Washington, so one can be forgiven if one has forgotten what it looks like, but this thing called Congressional "oversight" over administration conduct is now returning to Washington. Henry Waxman convened a hearing today, with former Iraq proconsul Paul Bremer as the featured witness, to begin looking into war profiteering in Iraq, and specifically, how much money was squandered through corruption and cronyism on Iraq's "reconstruction".

This was just the first day, and there is nothing cataclysmic, but several excerpts from the hearing illustrate the importance and potential potency of oversight in uncovering wrongdoing by the Executive branch. The first clip entails an examination of the shoddy accounting supervision and cronyism which ensured that there was no meaningful supervision over the expenditure of funds.

The second clip entails what Chairman Waxman has made clear is but the start of what will be their aggressive investigation into this report by The Washington Post that the politically appointed Pentagon official in charge of CPA hiring, Jim O'Beirne (husband of National Review's Kate O'Beirne) used a litmus test of political loyalty, rather than competence, to fill those positions:

Applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration. . . . To recruit the people he wanted, O'Beirne sought résumés from the offices of Republican congressmen, conservative think tanks and GOP activists. He discarded applications from those his staff deemed ideologically suspect, even if the applicants possessed Arabic language skills or postwar rebuilding experience.

Smith said O'Beirne once pointed to a young man's résumé and pronounced him "an ideal candidate." His chief qualification was that he had worked for the Republican Party in Florida during the presidential election recount in 2000."

As Steve Gilliard noted: "People like [National Review's] Michael Ledeen's daughter, Simone, were given the task of rebuilding Iraq's economy."

This last clip illustrates the empty promises made by the administration to provide better supervision and coordination for the reconstruction expenditures:

Again, this was just the first day. And this is one topic. But aggressive oversight -- relentless pursuit of information, compelled disclosure and testimony via subpoena, confrontation between the branches regarding oversight powers of Congress - - can be a very potent weapon for shining light on what this administration has been doing for the last six years while its obscenely loyal, duty-abdicating Congressional servants purposely looked the other way. When conducted the right way, these hearings can be dramatic, publicity-generating, and leave a lasting impression in the public mind. There are many worthy and necessary areas awaiting meaningful inquiry.

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