A Maginot Line of TSA Screeners and Watch Lists That Are Not Watched: The Need for Either or Both a Select Committee and a Special Commission

Hugh Hewitt

4/27/2013 8:00:00 AM - Hugh Hewitt

"Regular Order" ought to be the way in which the House and Senate conduct their business, but not when highly irregular national security disasters and/or scandals occur, and especially not after an ambassador is murdered by terrorists and a mass casualty terrorist attack occurs on Patriots Day in Boston.

Speaker of the House John Boehner has to act even if the president doesn't want to. The country needs to know whether the terrorists in Benghazi represent the future of that country and Syria with its chemical weapons and why our national security services could not protect our ambassador.

Even more importantly the country needs to know if its post-9/11 resolve to protect the homeland has degenerated into a Maginot line of TSA screeners and watch lists that are not in fact watched.

Too many Congressional committees investigating different aspects of at least two fiascos means a loss of public and especially media focus and a diffusion of accountability for failure as competing accounts emerge. If President Obama wants to continue to stonewall on Benghazi and begins to lay the bricks on Boston, Speaker Boehner needs to gather the various efforts under one chair and focus the country on that Special Committee's work.

There are many pressing, indeed immense issues facing the country and the world: The collapse of Syria into hell-on-earth and the use of chemical weapons there, the need not to lose the opportunity to reform the immigration laws and the growing rancor over how to address that need, an anemic economy, and even the return of the bird flu in China.

The twin disasters of Benghazi and the Boston Bombings are the biggest headline and leak generators however, because both raise unresolved and crucial issues about the protection of American lives against terrorists abroad and at home, and they do call out for either of both of those peculiar Beltway institutions, the Select Committee and the Special Commission.

A Select Committee of Congress on Benghazi ought to have been impaneled months ago but Senate Democrats resisted. The growing tide of reports and stories about events there may have changed their minds, and should have. Chairman Issa and his colleagues are proving formidable and thorough, if somewhat slow, as they press forward on Benghazi; and if a Select Committee had been put into place, the pace and direction of the inquiries (and those of the Intelligence Committees) would have been more to the Administration's liking. The public is now being whipsawed between press conferences and media appearances of dueling investigators, but the deaths of Ambassador Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Ty Woods require an authoritative account. In the absence of a Select Committee or Special Commission, that account will be written by Chairman Issa. Do Democrats want that? Does Hillary? Does the country generally? The answer should be no, no and most definitely no.

Though Chairman Issa's credibility is very high, the families of the victims and the country deserve a detailed, comprehensive account of the failures that led to the Benghazi massacre.

The families of the victims in Boston and the country deserve a detailed, comprehensive account of the failures that led to that terrorist attack.

Either of today's two lead stories on the Boston bombings --"Russia's Warning on Bombings Suspect Sets Off Debate" by Scott Shane, Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt in the New York Times and "Anti-terror task force was warned of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's long trip to Russia" by Greg Miller in the Washington Post-- are sufficient to conclude that at least one of the key national security agencies has decided to protect its own reputation by leaking key information to favorite sources. Expect the symphony of dueling leaks to accelerate. None of the relevant agencies want to be the agency pinned with this disaster, and the best way to avoid that is by pinning culpability on some other agency or bureau, and doing so via the hand-off of key paperwork to trusted friends in MSM. Look for Mr. X to meet Jake Tapper on a Mall bench soon.

The failures surrounding the Boston bombing are obvious and they are growing in number. The conclusions already include the one given by Mark Steyn on my program yesterday (transcript here):

These guys essentially gamed the refugee system. And the guy, they come over here because it’s dangerous for them to remain within the Russian federation, yet the older brother is taking six month vacations in the Russian federation. That’s how dangerous it is. And Homeland Security, which is supposed to notice, and believe me, I know this from experience, when green card holders spend significant amounts of time on foreign soil, did not notice that he had spent six months out of the country. This is a nice counterpoint to all those promised enforcement innovations that is supposedly, are supposedly coming in the comprehensive immigration package.

Mark is right, of course, but we don't know why the gaming was allowed to continue and whether there was a fabled "human error" or its cousin "systems failure" that allowed that gaming and all the other failures that led to massacre in Boston. But we should find out, via a Commission modeled on the 9/11 Commission --perhaps with venerable Fred Fielding pressed back into service but hopefully without the shameful partisanship of anyone remotely resembling Richard Ben-Veniste.

The Administration may but probably won't welcome a Committee/Commission, but perhaps the prospect of managing the leaks and the subpoenas until after the 2014 elections will appeal to the president. If the Speaker and Leader McConnell make such an appeal to the president and it is denied, Chairman Issa and Chairman Rogers and Chairman McCaul should continue with their separate investigations for the time being, but Speaker Boehner should also create a Special Committee of the House, name his best prosecutor member as its chair, people it with his smartest and primarily younger members and supply the Special Committee with the budget to allow for the best staff of lawyers and investigators in the country.

"Regular order" is necessary for legislation but not for the state of our fractured and increasingly and obviously dysfunctional domestic national security structure. Time to move, Mr. Speaker, with or without the president.