Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Republican Management--An Oxymoron?

Perhaps the most significant long term aspect of the uproar over the National Intelligence Estimate is buried at the end of the Karen DeYoung/Walter Pincus piece in the Post, after noting the NIE was transmitted to the Senate and House committees in April:
In the House, "there was a bit of a snafu with this particular document," said a spokesman for Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the intelligence committee chairman. "We had a massive computer failure on our classified side." The first that the committee knew of its existence was late last week, when "it was requested specifically by a member. That was when it was found and scanned into our system."

Whether the document was ignored or disappeared into cyberspace, however, it seemed to have made little impact on Capitol Hill at the time. No one in either chamber, on either side of the aisle, requested a briefing or any further information on its conclusions until now, the sources said.

If the Republican administration can't communicate with the Republican-led House, what hope is there for the CIA and FBI to communicate with each other? The failure must be both systemic and political.
  • Systemic because even the USPS offers "return receipt requested" service. Any electronic transmission system should have the same sort of safeguard to ensure that recipients have received the transmission.
  • Political because surely any new/updated NIE on the war on terror should have been discussed between the Congressional staffers and Negroponte's office, who should have been waiting for the report to arrive and raising flags when it didn't.
This is just an instance of the broader failure of Congress to carry out its oversight responsibilities. Can you imagine a similar lapse during a shooting war like WWII? (Whoops, we are in a shooting war.) But the Republicans can't take all the blame. If the incumbent Democrats were really out for blood they would have been on this earlier. Perhaps the answer is that incumbent House Democrats feel safe this year, thanks both to custom tailored districts and the political climate.

A final nod to a Republican--the NIE has revived the Rumsfeld question of a couple years ago--are we capturing and killing more terrorists than we are creating. It was the key question when he wrote it and it's key now.

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