What We Really Need Is a "Truth Commission" For the Bailout

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The Obama administration, and Congressional Democrats, would rather investigate the alleged past wrongdoings of the Bush years than the obvious malfeasance that's going on today, on their own watch.

The logic seems to be: Why seek to thwart bad behavior now--bad behavior that's happening in real time, all the time, costing the taxpayers billions--when it's so much more fun to investigate your opponent's supposed bad behavior in years past? Besides, since so much of the current financial skullduggery seems to involvetop Democrats, why not seek to change the subject entirely--for instance, by aiming the investigative attack dogs overseas? Why go aftersitting Democratic governors when you can go after CIA agents?

Democrats in both the Executive and Legislative Branches are moving to establish some sort of "Truth Commission" aimed at uncovering instances of torture and other possibly illegal acts committed by government operatives during the Bush administration. And what will happen after such an uncovering? Justice Department prosecutions? Civil suits? Indictments from overseas, followed by extradition efforts? More terror? Nobody knows, but everybody should be worried.

Leading figures from the Bush era, including former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, warned last week in The Wall Street Journalthat retroactive vindictiveness towards people who operated according to good faith understanding--tough rules for a murky counter-terror road--would be a calamitous mistake, potentially jeopardizing all Americans.

As Hayden and Mukasey put it, the mere release of classified Bush-era documents is "unsound as a matter of policy." Then they go further, much further, adding this warning: The effect of this new disclosure policy "will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001."

Yikes! Another terrorist attack on our soil? One can see the fate of thousands, maybe even millions, of innocent American lives resting on the flimsy structure of "full disclosure."

And yet President Obama indicated today that he would be willing to see investigations, and even prosecutions, go forward.

But speaking of full disclosure, there's one rather large area the Obama administration is not much interested in disclosing--the bailout. A look at the Treasury Department's Web site reveals little; indeed, Treasury is fighting disclosure, even after losing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the FOX Business Network.

Remember when candidate Obama promised to hire a powerful and transformative Chief Technology Officer, who would in turn create Government 2.0, empowering citizens with Web tools of disclosure and transparency? Well, that was last year. This year, President Obama is in charge, and priorities have, uh, changed. One reason for this change could be the embarrassment , or worse, that disclosures have caused for so many, many top Democratic contributors,big honoraria-recipients, high officials in the Executive Branch, andspouses of Democratic Members of Congress.

What's needed, of course, is a really powerful disclosure tool. You know, like Google--for bailouts and all associated subsidies and loan guarantees. Why can't we have a big and bold system of transparency, so that we, the people, can look and see where the money--our money--is being spent? We could have such a system, of course, but the people running the system today don't want us to.

And I think I know why: Because it would be embarrassing for them. Or worse.

So they direct our attention back to the past, heedless of the scandals of today--and the risk to our future.