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Jewish World Review
Jan. 20, 2006
/ 20 Teves, 5766
Reporting the Report: There are 120 pages missing in damning document
There was some last-minute drama in Washington
before yesterday's release of the long-awaited report by Independent Counsel
David Barrett. Sources close to the three-judge panel overseeing the report
say that the panel's members were furious about leaks to the press
previewing the report's contents. The report, detailing an organized attempt
by Clinton administration officials to shut down an Internal Revenue Service
investigation into possible tax violations by President Bill Clinton's
secretary of housing and urban development Henry Cisneros, was to be
released at 9:00 a.m. Thursday. The day before, late in the afternoon, word
went out from the judges to the Independent Counsel's office that the
release would be delayed.
Its delay Thursday morning caused apprehension as to the
report's future. It had cost some $23 million in taxpayers' money to produce
and a decade to research. It allegedly contained information on the
politicization of the IRS and the Justice Department during the Clinton
years and now might never see the light of day. The morning of the delay saw
the kind of stories that roused the judges' ire. In the Washington Post,
syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote that the impending report was
heavily redacted 120 pages, poof! Simultaneously,
with Novak's column came a front-page New York Times news story similar to
the story published in the New York Sun last Monday that the Barrett Report
chronicled a cover-up by the Clinton administration of both IRS and
Independent Counsel investigations into Cisneros. But the Times report had a
significant omission: no mention of the redacted pages in the final report,
which after a three-hour delay did come out though with the 120 pages
Had the members of the three-judge panel cooled off about these
leaks? I cannot say. I do know that the head of the panel, Judge David
Sentelle, is an amiable man, a published author, a cigar smoker. He is a
Republican, and his two colleagues are Democrats. There is no reason they,
too, could not have a sense of proportion. Leaks take place in Washington
all the time. Right now a leaker from the National Security Agency is
celebrated in this town as a patriot. The Barrett Report contains a memo
from an IRS leaker who apparently first tipped off the Independent Counsel
to the Clintonistas' funny business. Perhaps he, too, will become a hero.
Throughout the history of special counsels there have been admired leakers.
During Iran-Contra, Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh's office leaked
prodigiously. There were even leaks while Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald
was investigating I. Lewis Libby prior to his indictment. Of course, some of
those leaks could have come from the targets' lawyers. Who knows?
It is in the nature of leaks that their origins and purposes are
mysterious. Barrett's office has been leakproof for years. He has been as
quiet as a church mouse, which is why this week's hullabaloo caught many
observers by surprise. Moreover, as in the Libby investigation, people
mentioned in the report have very good reason to do the leaking or have
their lawyers do it. In fact, throughout the Clinton years, we now know that
leaks came more often from targets' lawyers than from Independent Counsels.
Clintonistas such as the renowned Lanny Davis have boasted that it was best
when bad news was coming to get out in front of the bad news by leaking to
the press and putting one's own spin on the story.
The aforementioned New York Times story is a perfect example of
the kind of stories confected by the Clintons and their lawyers over the
years. It appears to be fair-minded, but read carefully it is interlarded
with the Clintons' defenses. The Times' story's first words contain the
sullen line "longest independent counsel investigation in history." Soon
Barrett's work is described as a "scathing report." Then we have this land
mine: Barrett's work "came to be a symbol of the flawed effort to prosecute
high-level corruption through the use of independent prosecutors." Later one
of the individuals mentioned in the report is quoted as writing that the
gravamen of the report is "a scurrilous falsehood."
Finally let us return to the Times' amazing omission, neglecting
to mention that the Barrett Report as released yesterday has 120 pages
redacted. How do we account for this error? Alas, the Times' leakers lied to
the paper. Its story ends saying, "But after Congressional Republicans
attached a rider to a Department of Housing and Urban Development spending
bill requiring publication of the full report, the judicial panel in
November ordered a full disclosure." That was not the end of it. Had a fact
checker from the Times called me, I would have pointed out that later, in
December, legislation was snuck through Congress that allowed the redactions
As Novak reports, those 120 pages can be seen by any member of
Congress, who can then make them public. The drama continues.
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© 2005, Creators Syndicate