Whether you wish to or not, whether you should or not, you are soon to read and hear a great deal about the National Security Agency data-mining program, initiated after 9-11, that without warrants monitored al-Qaeda electronic communications, some with Americans.
You are not likely to be allowed to read something, at least in its entirety, called the Barrett Report. You may have read people insisting that you should be able to read it - most notably columnists and commentators Tony Snow and Robert Novak - but far more powerful people are intent on suppressing it. They would be the Clintons, former President Bill and current U.S. Senator Hillary, and their minions.
David Barrett is the Independent Counsel, the last of his kind, engaged to investigate the shenanigans of Clinton administration HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros. Cisneros lied to the FBI about hush money paid to a mistress, pled guilty, paid a fine and was, wonder of wonders, then pardoned by President Clinton in one of his last acts in office.
Barrett's investigation has lasted 10 years and cost taxpayers more than $20 million. Why so long and so much for a garden-variety scandal, long since seemingly dispatched? Well, unconfirmed but unrefuted reports indicate Barrett expanded his work to look into IRS and Justice Department interference with his investigation as well as harassment of Clinton enemies. Unconfirmed but unrefuted reports indicate Barrett found stuff, lots of stuff, that even if not prosecutable by Barrett could prove highly damaging to the Clintons - including Hillary Clinton's political future - and the former officials involved.
The details of what Barrett found are in his report, but he cannot release that, or even discuss it, without approval from the three-judge federal panel overseeing his work who, to date, have kept it tightly under seal. A barrage of legal motions, filed by the Clintons' law firm, Williams and Connolly, and congressional maneuvering, led by Democrat Senators Byron Dorgan, Carl Levin, Richard Durbin, John Kerry and Representative Henry Waxman, have thus far successfully forced redaction of some of the report's more explosive revelations and removed Barrett's funding. Senator Levin has apparently seen at least some of the report's information, and is thus presumed to understand the potentially devastating political stakes.
Republican Senator Charles Grassley has been working diligently to obtain the unredacted report, make it public and presumably then hold hearings, backed by subpoenas and sworn testimony. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the IRS, his efforts could have teeth, but so far he has been stymied by the Clinton and Democrat forces and helped little by Republican leadership, who once again show not the instincts or the stomach for the confrontation at which Democrats excel.
There are undoubtedly some legitimate privacy issues involved for those who are referred to in the report but charged with no crimes. But if the swirling rumors about the content of the report are true, there are far more serious issues regarding use of the IRS against the Clintons' political enemies.
We've been down this road before, to which this writer can personally attest. Among others decades ago subjected to politically-instigated IRS audits, he survived because he's not as dumb as he looks and is honest to fault, actually foregoing the $27 refund that the all-day audit ordeal miraculously revealed he was owed. Still, it would be years after the fact before details of the suspected political instigation were confirmed, not by any investigation, but in a tell-all book by former Nixon White House counsel John Dean.
There is no government act more insidious and few more violative of civil liberties than the political use of IRS power. If that has indeed again occurred, and if Independent Counsel Barrett's investigation uncovered it, then heaven and earth should be turned, not to mention a few congressional committees, to expose that abuse to the American people, and we thus join the growing chorus asking for same.
We join those who, like columnist Emmett Tyrrell, detect just a tad of hypocrisy in Members of Congress screaming about the civil liberties of folks having phone chats with Osama bin Laden, yet are silent or obstructive on this. We join William Safire in wondering where all those investigative reporters are when we really need them.
Update: January 18, 2006
A January 16, 2006 article by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and Barry McGuire in The New York Sun reveals heretofore unknown details of the Barrett Report.Ê That article can be read by visiting: http://www.nysun.com/article/25880.