I’ve posted on Congressional oversight previously, including remarks about what I think it would take to enable objective investigations of crimes or malfeasance involving agencies or government employees – the current approaches just don’t work, for a great many reasons. So I’m not going to bore with that again. However David’s comment about oversight and transparency led me to think of some of the things I’m writing about in my next work, tentatively named “Surprise Attack”.
At present both the military and all major federal agencies do have a variety of internal oversight tools. One level are the organization’s Inspectors General; they are chartered to look at practices and evaluate major performance problems and operational failures. At another level you have the GAO, which is more of an efficiency and spending tracking effort. In spite of what is often said about government, both groups do some outstanding work. As an example, the CIA’s Inspector General report on the Bay of Pigs was both cutting and highly accurate. Yet even though the report went on the record, the head of the clandestine directorate was allowed to oppose it and the CIA’ s Director essentially shoved it aside and let a counter report go into the record. As a result, officers which had proved to be largely incompetent in both security and military practices were not disciplined and allowed to pursue similar operations in the future. The fact that the Agency in general refused to recognize its incompetence in large scale military operations led to officers being sent from JMWAVE to Laos and organizing military operations which were equally outrageous. We go into that in Shadow Warfare.
But stepping forward in time, following the attacks of 9/11, the CIA’s Inspector General, the TSA/FFA’s Inspector General both performed solid studies, reported out points deserving of further investigation and probable disciplinary action – and the heads of both Agencies simply shoved it under the rug, refusing to pursue the IG reports. Actually a number of GAO studies of the FBI both before and following 9/11 pointed out problems as well and the FBI stonewalled the GAO report. It would be great to see a real history graduate student study the extent to which IG and GAO reports are ever really acted on. Unfortunately in regard to 9/11, both NORAD and the FBI should also have had internal investigations but that’s another story entirely – and I do write about that.
Along those same lines, the GAO did excellent work in pointing out a large amount of malfeasance in Iraq and Afghanistan contracting and as far as I can tell nobody ever got prosecuted. The Iraq scandals appear to have been far and above anything we saw in Vietnam yet the amount of investigate reporting to date has been pitiful – is it me or does this just seem to happen whenever the Texans get into Washington? Probably just me, it happens in a lot of administrations but the the scale seems to be different….
Back to my point, which is that actually some very good oversight is done inside government, but it has no teeth since the upper echelon can ignore it. I would propose something equivalent to in independent Federal Attorney General’s office the IG and GAO reports and evaluates them for charges – it can’t be done in DOJ because Attorney’s General and their staffs clearly suck up (sorry) way to much to the President’s who appoint them. I’ve noticed it was not always that day, as recently as the Eisenhower administration the AG would give president’s opinions which opposed their pending policies and just flat tell them it was illegal and it stopped there…..that just doesn’t happen much these days.