Image via WikipediaFrom Jake Wiens of the Project for Government Oversight
The recently dissolved Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC) did just about everything right. Created in the spirit of the Truman Commission, the CWC identified as much as $60 billion in contracting-related waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the process, the CWC held 25 hearings, released 8 reports, and published detailed recommendations intended to prevent waste and fraud from occurring in future overseas contingencies. Perhaps most important, the bipartisan commission was unanimous in its findings and recommendations, notable in a city known for its partisan gridlock.
But the Commission’s decision to seal its internal records for 20 years is just plain wrong. The decision, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, blocks the public and watchdog groups from using the CWC’s source material to build upon the important work of the Commission and to help prevent waste and fraud in overseas contingency contracting in the near term.
Clark Irwin, the CWC’s spokesman, told the Wall Street Journal the seal was justified because “there is sensitive information in there.” He cited proprietary company information, attorney work products, and classified documents as examples of such records. Another source told the Journal that the expectation that the CWC’s records would be sealed was necessary to encourage sources to speak candidly.
But Irwin’s argument ignores the fact that documents are only released by the National Archives after first going through an extensive vetting process. So whether the seal is 20 years, 20 days, or even if there were no seal at all, the truly sensitive material would be redacted or withheld.
Sources close to the CWC have told POGO that the commissioners agreed to the 20-year seal after being informed that it was standard practice. But 20 years doesn’t appear to be anywhere near standard. Congress has created six investigative commissions in the last 20 years, the most well known being the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission).
The 9/11 Commission, which investigated issues of the most sensitive nature, sealed its records for just five years.
Read in full here.
Yo, Commissioners – I think you’ve all been played!
I just finished writing to both my senators and my congressman. If you’re reading this, please click here and write to your congressional representatives. We should not tolerate this type of actions in the guise of protecting “sensitive information.” Sensitive information, my foot! This is pure and simple “cover your ass” strategeries, too laughable if this were not real. The Commission should reverse the 20-year seal of its internal records. If it is unable to do so, Congress which created this Commission should quickly remedy this situation before they bury the boxes in underground bunkers until 2031.