Friday, June 11, 2004

Selective Disclosure

My weekly column ran Thursday instead of Sunday, due to getting bumped for a debate on state trust lands on Sunday and then needing a couple days to tweak about 6 words to satisfy my editor. He's now calling for disclosure and a Congressional investigation of the Bush administration's "torture memos" (the subject of this Sunday's forthcoming column from me) so at least the Tribune is being consistent about disclosure. In a remarkable show of bitter partisan unity, Bob Robb at the Republic wrote today that the state grand jury report should not be released, so there's at least one principled small government conservative out there. But that's been about it.

The third paragraph in the column is my editor's; he rejected the contention that the paper was being inconsistent because it called for release of the state grand jury report but hasn't said anything about the federal investigations of the Bush administration. He said that I was attacking a straw man--until I noted that earlier this year, they'd run an editorial attacking all Democrats for not denouncing some remarks on the website. So I got the criticism back in, although not exactly how I would have phrased it.

Anyway, the newspaper version is available here, for about 30 days. Columns older than that are always available at (note: it works better without the "www").

East Valley Tribune, Jun. 10, 2004

If Republicans want grand jury testimony released in Arizona, what reason could Republicans have for not wanting to release grand jury testimony in Washington, DC?

With the hubbub over Rick Romley’s appointee turning a criminal grand jury into his own private investigation of the Lewis Prison hostage crisis, you could forget that a federal grand jury is investigating the Bush administration’s leak of a deep-cover CIA agent’s identity. If the public’s right to know means that grand jury testimony isn’t secret in hopes that it embarrasses a Democratic governor, why can’t we Democrats get to pore over secret grand jury testimony in hopes that it might embarrass a Republican president?

(And while the Tribune has editorialized for release of the state grand jury findings on the prison standoff, why has it been silent on the federal grand jury issue?)

Of course, Republicans will labor mightily to find a way to distinguish between “grand jury testimony” and “grand jury testimony.” You can hear the arguments: Grand jury testimony is secret, and contains only one side of the story; targets and witnesses can’t question other witnesses, but only can answer the prosecution’s questions. Therefore, it would be wrong to release grand jury testimony investigating actual crimes committed by members of the Bush administration. But where the grand jury has concluded that no crimes should be prosecuted here in Arizona, the secrecy and one-sidedness of the testimony doesn’t matter if release might be useful -- for Republicans, anyway.

Yes, the Arizona grand jury voted unanimously to release their report. Let’s give the federal grand jurors the same opportunity to vote that their state compatriots got. Do you think the grand jurors just spontaneously and magically came up with the idea of voting to release their report, without any suggestion from a Romley appointee? If you do, then you really shouldn’t watch “reality TV” without professional supervision.

It’ll be interesting to hear the hair-splitting necessary to release the “useful” parts but not anything that will show exactly how Romley’s office turned a criminal grand jury into a substitute for a GOP legislative committee investigation. It’ll also be interesting to see how people who argue that Bush wasn’t in office long enough to do anything to prevent 9/11 and how it’s all Clinton’s fault will argue that conditions in state prisons were totally Napolitano’s responsibility and the previous director of Arizona Department of Corrections, Terry Stewart -- a consultant to the grand jury -- had absolutely no responsibility for anything.

If the 9/11 Commission had hired Clinton’s anti-terrorism coordinator (you remember Richard Clarke, don't you?) as its sole consultant, we might have some partisan parity here. And maybe that analogy gives you an idea of how badly, and baldly, these GOP grand jury shenanigans stink.

The way these things inevitably work, the grand jury report will become public, one way or another. All I ask in return is that when DC grand jury testimony looking into these Bush administration scandals -- the “outing” of the CIA agent, the blabbing of the secret information about breaking the Iranian codes to Ahmad Chalabi, and the Boeing tanker deal, for starters -- begins leaking, we are spared the pious lectures about the absolutely vital need for keeping all grand jury testimony secret.

But using the grand jury raises an interesting point about Arizona legislative oversight. The GOP legislative leadership apparently didn’t consider their members up to the job of investigating the prisons. Instead, leadership preferred an investigation by people picked randomly from the driver’s license rolls.

Wags sometimes jest that we could improve the Arizona Legislature by picking names blindly from the phone book. When it came to investigating the prison crisis, that’s exactly what Speaker Jake Flake and Senate President Ken Bennett did. Some jokes aren’t quite as funny when they turn out to be true.

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