Monday, July 16, 2007

Hiding The Salami

Rep. Randy Cunningham is currently serving an eight-year sentence in federal prison for bribery and corruption while he served as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. According to an article in today's Los Angeles Times, there is still some fall-out from one of the investigations into Mr. Cunningham's activities.

An internal investigation that the House Intelligence Committee has refused to make public portrays the panel as embarrassingly entangled in the Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery scandal.

The report, a declassified version of which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times, describes the committee as a dysfunctional entity that served as a crossroads for almost every major figure in the ongoing criminal probe by the Justice Department.

The document describes breakdowns in leadership and controls that it says allowed Cunningham — the former congressman (R-Rancho Santa Fe) who began an eight-year prison term last year for taking bribes and evading taxes — to use his House position to steer millions of dollars to corrupt contractors. ...

The report provides the most detailed account to date of how former CIA Executive Director Kyle Dustin "Dusty" Foggo, whose indictment on charges of defrauding the government was recently expanded, allegedly used committee connections to advance his career at the agency.

And the report sheds new light on the roles of senior committee aides, including retired CIA case officer Brant Bassett, who had ties to Cunningham and Foggo as well as to contractors accused of paying the congressman millions of dollars.

The article goes into some detail as to how the congressman steered business to contractors who had little, if any, experience in intelligence matters and the roles "Dusty" Foggo and Brant Bassett played in the corruption to further their own careers. The lengthy article is worth the read for that reason alone.

However, what I found most troubling has to do with the fact that the committee's own internal investigation is being withheld, even from members of Congress.

When the committee's investigation was completed last year, the Republican-controlled panel would not release the results; now that the committee is controlled by Democrats, it still will not release the findings. ...

"They are so nervous about this report being out," said one congressional official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Members oppose putting this thing out because you read this and the natural question is: 'Did you know this, and what did you do about it?' I don't think any members wanted that scrutiny."
[Emphasis added]

It's not as if the report points any fingers at the other members of the panel: the investigation was strictly limited to staff activity, which is in itself rather puzzling. The excuse being given is that staffer names were included in the report, and the committee members felt it was unfair to name names at this juncture, especially since many of the staffers were so afraid of Mr. Cunningham that they pretty much kept their mouths shut even when they believed what he was doing was rather suspicious. If that is the case, it's unlikely that the staffers would face any further repercussions beyond embarrassment.

The fact is, however, that several Democrats on the committee voted with the Republicans to keep this report classified and away from the public and other members of Congress. That is deeply troubling in light of the fact that Democrats promised us in 2006 that things were going to change in Congress: it would become more transparent and the Democrats would vigorously weed out the corrupt practices of their Republican predecessors to make that happen.

The obvious question now is what are the Democrats trying to hide?

I guess the ethics reform we were promised was just an election year meme after all.

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