November 13, 2003

The Gong Show or The Fix Continues To Be In. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States has reached an agreement with the White House regarding access to the daily intelligence briefings sent to George W. Bush shortly before the 9/11 attacks. The agreement is wholly unacceptable. Only two members of the panel will have full access to the documents and more than half of the 10-person panel won't see the documents at all.

According to the Washington Post, "the accord also includes restrictions limiting what parts of the briefings can be seen and what parts can later be shared with the rest of the bipartisan panel, and it includes White House review of much of that information ... Those with direct access will take notes, and those notes are subject to review by the White House before being shared with others." (my emphasis)

The New York Times noted: "Administration officials acknowledge that they fear that information in the reports might be construed to suggest that the White House had clues before Sept. 11, 2001, that Al Qaeda was planning a catastrophic attack."

Three Commission members denounced the agreement. Former Indiana Representative Timothy J. Roemer: "In paraphrasing Churchill, never have so few commissioners reviewed such important documents with so many restrictions." Richard Ben-Veniste, a Washington lawyer and a special prosecutor in the Watergate scandals, noted the White House had originally wanted to determine which commissioners would conduct the review. Former Georgia senator Max Cleland said the agreement "was deliberately compromised by the president of the United States ... I, as a member of the commission, cannot look any American in the eye, especially family members of victims, and say the commission had full access. ... This is 'The Gong Show'; this isn't protection of national security."

Why aren't more Americans pissed off about this? The White House fought for more than a year to have no investigation of 9/11 -- none at all -- and after public pressure forced them to support a commission, they have consistently denied access to much of the requested information. I thought the Republicans' mantra was: "If you've got nothing to hide, why are you worried about being questioned/investigated?

Xymphora on voting machines: "The essential paradox of computer touchscreen voting is that there is absolutely no way to confirm the fairness of the result produced by the machines without having them create a countable and counted paper record of each voter's voting choices in a form that can be confirmed as accurate by the voter at the time of the voting. This paper record, and the fact it has to be collected, safely stored, and then counted, looks exactly like the old-fashioned paper ballot and counting process, leading one immediately to the conclusion that the machines have added nothing to the process. Why spend millions of dollars on the machines and their constant maintenance if you could accomplish the same thing with some paper ballots and ballot boxes? The voting machine companies are well aware of this paradox, which is why they have put up so much resistance to having their machines create paper records. Once they create paper records that have to be counted, the machines are obviously just glorified ballot printing machines, with the additional hassle of an extra counting process to ensure that the results are fair. To put it another way, if we had started with computer voting machines, and some genius came up with the idea of replacing them with paper ballots and ballot boxes and hand counting of ballots, that would be regarded as a major improvement in the whole voting process, being all at once more secure, cheaper, and easier." ... How unreliable? "5,352 ballots, 144,000 votes cast."

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