Thursday, June 11, 2009

Some pretend to cover the Congressional song and dance, most ignore it

Yesterday the House Oversight and Government Reform's National Security Subcommittee held a hearing on waste. Among those offering testimony were four members of the Wartime Contracting Commission. You can click here for yesterday's snapshot and here for Kat's reporting on the hearing.

It appears there's a great deal of reporting on the hearing from yesterday afternoon through this morning. It appears. Closer examination reveals a lot of people 'reporting' on the hearing are just citing the report and the joint-prepared statement by co-chairs of the Wartime Contracting Subcommission Christopher Shays and Michael Thibault. Though they turned in a prepared statement apparently joint-authored, the reality is (and you probably to attend the hearing to know this) they each gave a lengthy opening statement in the hearing and, no, it was not what the prepared statement handed out to the press ahead of time said.

So what a number of outlets are calling 'reporting' on the hearing is nothing but taking the report officially issued yesterday (but leaked to the AP on Sunday -- a detail that anyone attending the hearing would know bothered Subcommittee Chair John F. Tierney) and the co-chairs hand out and merging the two to call it 'reporting' on the hearing.

That's really surprising because I can't think of a hearing I've attended in the last two months that was better attended by the press. There was a hearing on the VA that had a bigger turnout but that was including veterans. If you just counted the press, there were only two reporters present at that VA hearing. So what happened to all those people at the hearing? Where are the real reports on it?

Justin Duckham (Talk Radio News Service) reports:

"We don't have enough people watching the contractors. Seventy percent of our contracts go to sub-contractors…we have to get the information second hand. We need to reexamine that," said Christopher Shays, the current co-Chairman of the Commission on War Time Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, during a hearing held today with the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs.

I don't know Duckham and can't say "He was there!" but he's written a report that appears he was. And he's one of the few 'reporting' on the hearing that is actually reporting on it. Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg News) does a report on the hearing and the Commission's report.

AP's Richard Lardner notes "Camp Delta Dinning Facility" which mispelled "Dining" and says that's perfect for an example of waste. But it's not perfect and Lardner either wants to lie to readers or he didn't pay attention.

The dining facility is a joke. It's a joke because $30 million is a huge amount of money for a facility that shouldn't be used for many years -- if you buy into the notion that all US troops leave Iraq at the end of 2011. But Lardner leaves out what the Commissioners were forced to admit: It's not necessarily waste.

The Commissioners were not calling the outrageous sum to construct the facility "waste." They were calling the "waste" that the money was spent for a facility in Iraq when they believe US forces will all leave Iraq by the end of 2011. But that's based on a reading of the Status Of Forces Agreement and the SOFA wasn't negotiated (or even in talks) when the facility was contracted out.

In other words, and the Commissioners pretty much had to admit this in the hearing under questioning from members of Congress, to call the facility "waste" or "wasteful," you had to believe that someone should have been able to peer into the future.

This was a moment of great drama for the Commissioners in the hearing and then came the questions and their puffed chests started sinking a little and they were forced to admit that, no, it might not really qualify as wasteful since no one knew an end-date (or 'end-date') would be attached to the illegal war in the near future.

If you actually attended the hearing, and this is probably why so few bothered to report on it after attending, it quickly became obvious that the Commission wasn't doing their job. They've only gone to Iraq and Afghanistan twice. They've only been to three bases in Iraq (on their December trip there). They're not doing their job. They spoke repeatedly about what they'd like to do and blah blah blah. But the Commission wasn't just created. This was the sort of performance that you expect two weeks after Commissioners are appointed if not when they're being screened. The Commission is doing nothing and their report was an embarrassment that read as if it cribbed from GAO.

They uncovered nothing. That's why it was so amusing when the dining facility in Iraq fell apart for them. They were really selling that and acting like they'd actually found some waste all on their own. But, see above, that fell apart.

John F. Tierney's opening remarks really did lay out the problems although he couched them in it-would-be-good-if-the-commission-didn't-do-this. But those attending the hearing quickly grasped that they did do that.

It's a white wash and they're trying to, as Kat points out, run out the clock. The Commission is not serious about uncovering graft or waste. They're just going to issue these half-assed reports based on the work of others and refuse to do any real work of their own. And that's most likely why you don't see a great deal on the subcommittee hearing in the news cycle.

ADDED: Jeremy Scahill covers the Commissioners' report here.

The following community sites updated last night:

Cedric's Big Mix
Letterman the dirty old man
6 hours ago

The Daily Jot
6 hours ago

Mikey Likes It!
World Can't Wait, Kelley B. Vlahos, American Dad
8 hours ago

Oh Boy It Never Ends
William Blu, American Dad, Roger & Hayley
8 hours ago

Trina's Kitchen
Roger and 'Of Ice And Men'
8 hours ago

Thomas Friedman is a Great Man
American Dad
8 hours ago

Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude
'irregarding steve'
9 hours ago

Gloria Feldt, Bob Somerby, American Dad
9 hours ago

Ruth's Report
American Dad stem, stem, seed . . .
9 hours ago

Like Maria Said Paz
Deborah Vagins, World Can't Wait, American Dad
9 hours ago

Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)
The do nothing Wartime Contracting Commission
9 hours ago

Wally and Cedric did their joint-post as usual. The rest were working from a theme: American Dad. The Fox animated program which airs on Sunday nights. Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez focus on the shooting at the Holocaust Museum for the hour on Democracy Now! today.

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends