Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I Got Some Gaps For Ya...

There's been much discussion today of an 18-day gap in the document dump from the Department of Justice (DoJ) to the House Judiciary Committee. I'm not going to analyze this, other than to say that I'm not too surprised. One thing I've been noticing about these documents is how disorganized they are. It almost looks like they just went through Michael Elston's desk drawers and photocopied every piece of paper they found.

I'll also note that both a TPM reader and Think Progress have found e-mails within that time period. Like I said, these documents are disorganized.

One type of gap I haven't heard much mention of, though, is the redactions we've been finding in these documents. Some might be reasonably assumed to be protecting someone's privacy, but others can't be dismissed so lightly. Here's an example, the analysis and summarizing we did on one PDF, 3-19-2007 DOJ-Released Documents 1-3. Here's what the Gonzopedia says about page 25 of that PDF:

Paragraph II is a list of US Attorneys who were or would be "Nominated for Other Things". This list is redacted.

Paragraph III USAs Who, Rumor Has It, Will Be Leaving in Coming Months. This list is redacted.

Paragraph IV USA in the Process of Being Pushed Out. Names Eastern District of Arkansas USA Bud Cummins.

Paragraph V USAs We Now Should Consider Pushing Out . There appear to be three redacted names in the list. The ones that can be read are: District of Arizona Paul Charlton Southern District of California Carol Lam Western District of Michigan Margaret Chiara Western District of Washington John McKay

Gonzopedia: 3-19-2007 DOJ-Released Documents 1-3 Page 25

The redactions in Paragraph III (by the way, those Roman numerals were in the original) I would normally think was the sort of office gossip you wouldn't want to be spreading all over the Internet. Unfortunately, in this case I don't think we can assume that. What if that were some sort of hint that those folks were the next ones to be "pushed out"? Seems to me that's a relevant question. I have similar reservations about Paragraph II.

What's more, you can't use that explanation for the names in Paragraph V. Those were folks who were clearly on the hit list. Why were three names (or more?) redacted.

Now, let's go to the summary for page 30, which I'll just quote in its entirety:

There are 4 redacted Senators, related in some manner to the 3 redacted USAs who had also been considered for forced resignations. Working on the theory that understanding what spared the others (and who they were) may yield understanding or reveal influence, I've done some text analysis.

Senators 4 and 6 have been sufficiently redacted as to prevent identification.

Senator 2 begins with M or N. Qualifying Republican Senators are: Mel Martinez (Florida) Mike Crapo (Idaho) Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) Mike Enzi (Wyoming) Norm Coleman (Minnesota)

Senator 3 almost certainly begins with C (or, less likely, O). Qualifying Republican Senators are: Chuck Grassley (Iowa) Chuck Hagel (Nebraska) Craig Thomas (Wyoming) Orin Hatch (Utah) Olympia Snowe (Maine)

One possibility is that the two redacted names are Mike Enzi and Craig Thomas, and that one of the redacted (and spared) attorneys was from Wyoming. This would explain why there are 4 Senators for only 3 attorneys. This is not, however, the only viable explanation.

Gonzopedia: 3-19-2007 DOJ-Released Documents 1-3 Page 30

Someone has to make guesses about United States Senators or Representatives who are involved in selecting a replacement for a U.S. Attorney who was forced out in questionable circumstances. That strikes me as counterproductive, to say the least.

For further examples, go over to TPM Muckraker's call for help page and search for the string "redact" in the comments. You'll find many more examples.

I must admit that the thought had crossed my mind before, but it sure does look like the DoJ's true purpose in releasing these documents is to make it as difficult as possible to find anything important. Unfortunately, as the Gonzopedia and TPM Muckraker efforts are demonstrating, they're about ten years late with this strategy.

I suspect that's why, according to The Gavel, the House Judiciary Committee is likely to subpoena several White House officials:

“We have worked toward voluntary cooperation, but we have to prepare for the possibilty that the White House will continue to hide the truth,” said CAL Subcommittee Chairwoman Linda S├ínchez. “This Congress respects White House prerogatives as a safeguard for the internal deliberations on the legitimate creation of policy, but they are not a ‘get out of jail free’ card. There must be accountability.”

The motion authorizes the Chairman to issue subpoenas at his discretion for the officials to appear before the Committee relating to the ongoing investigation. It also authorizes Conyers to subpoena additional documents relating to the issue - specifically, unredacted documents that have not previously been provided.

Judiciary Committee to Issue Subpoenas for Rove, Miers, Sampson and Others

[bold emphasis mine]

By the way, the TPM U.S. Attorneys Scandal Timeline looks to be another valuable resource for enterprising journalists.

UPDATE: According to the Justice Dept., that 18-day gap of e-mails is a "lull":

Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said, “The department has provided or made available to Congress all the documents responsive to Congress’s requests over the time period in question.” He added, “To the extent there was a lull in communications concerning the U.S. attorney issues, it reflects the fact that we have found no responsive documents from that time period, which included the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Democrats See a ‘Document Gap’ in Dismissals

In fact, this usually is a slow time of year for work to get done in most government offices. I don't know if that would apply to the DoJ, though. As I noted above, there were at least a couple of e-mails that surfaced during that period. (h/t TPM)

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