Independent Commissions Come In Many Flavors

Bush to Seek Intelligence Failures Probe. AP reports that faced with pressure from his own party, Bush is going to try to head off a real independent commission with statutory oomph by setting up his own via executive order.

Things to look out for:

  • Terms of reference. Is the mandate stacked to pin blame on the CIA's conclusions, or do the terms of reference allow the commission to include what almost every report suggests was a major part of the problem—the rogue intelligence-massaging operation run out of the Vice President's office, with the connivance of the civilians in the Pentagon.
  • Powers. Will it have subpoena power? The power to get what it needs regardless of classification level?
  • Timing. Is the commission going to conveniently report after the election?
  • Membership. Is it bi-partisan? Is the chair or co-chairs really independent of the White House and the Republican establishment (e.g. NOT Henry Kissinger, but maybe someone like Richard Clarke)?
  • Staffing. Do Democrats get to have a say in hiring the staff or are they just window-dressing?
  • Track Record/Baggage. To the extent that there are politicians rather than technocrats, how many opposed the war?
  • Public Report Details. How much control does the White House get over the final report? Assuming there will be both public and classified versions, is there a mechanism by which the Commission can contest decisions to keep certain things classified?
  • Spin Preservation. Does the White House get to look at a draft report and append its reply? How much more warning does the White House get about the contents/final draft than Clinton got from Ken Starr?

I bet I know the answer to most of these questions already….

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