A stone wall is like a levee, only different

The president once said that national security required a thorough investigation into Katrina. So why is the White House blocking that work now?

Published January 25, 2006 2:19PM (EST)

In the days after Hurricane Katrina struck, George W. Bush promised to lead an investigation into "what went right and what went wrong" with the federal government's response. In making that pledge, the president made it clear that the stakes were enormous. "We still live in an unsettled world," Bush said then. "We want to make sure that we can respond properly if there's a WMD attack or another major storm. And so I'm going to find out over time what went right and what went wrong."

Maybe Bush is still going to find out "over time." But in the meantime, he seems awfully determined to keep the rest of us from finding out ourselves. As the New York Times reports this morning, the White House is refusing to release some documents about Katrina and won't make senior White House aides available to testify before congressional committees.

In an inteview with the Times, deputy White House spokesman Trent Duffy said that the administration has refused to provide e-mail correspondence and other communications about the storm and has refused to make White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, White House Domestic Security Advisor Frances Townsend or either of their deputies available to testify before Congress. At the same time, Duffy insisted that "the White House and the administration are cooperating with both the House and the Senate," subject to concerns over executive privilege.

How bad is the stonewalling? Bad enough that Joe Lieberman actually found critical words about the Bush administration spilling out of his mouth Tuesday. "There has been a near total lack of cooperation that has made it impossible, in my opinion, for us to do the thorough investigation that we have a responsibility to do," the senator from Connecticut said at a hearing Tuesday.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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