On Condoleezza Rice’s recent trip to Russia, she engaged in some heavy lecturing to President Vladimir Putin on how to “do democracy.” The Russian President’s response was that of a bored parent of a super-smart sixth-grader, listening to his child’s teacher explain why Johnny needs to develop better study habits. Putin was probably thinking, “What does this woman know about Russia? What does she even know about democracy?”
Back in the United States, Rice returned to her favorite operational mode — the one where she manipulates, distorts and dissembles information for her boss. A woman always interested in self-improvement, she has now set out to go beyond her work in the good old days where she got away with the bogus claims of yellow uranium cake from Niger, aluminum centrifuge tubes for uranium enrichment, and the infamous “mushroom cloud” that we were to fear from Saddam’s WMD. Now the Secretary of State has put a little personal touch on a department report, “Patterns of Global Terrorism.” This is a Congressionally-mandated report from the U.S. Department of State intended to provide a full and complete record for those countries and groups involved in international terrorism. It has come out every year since 1986.
This year’s edition showed a big increase in “significant terrorist attacks,” shooting up from 172 in 2003 to 655 in 2004. Much of the increase took place, of course, in Iraq, which contradicts recent Pentagon claims that the insurgency there is waning. So Secretary Rice simply ordered that the report be withdrawn and a new one issued — without those troublesome statistics. She certainly doesn’t want anyone to think that George Bush’s war on terror is a total debacle.
Lying appears to quite natural to Rice. She and George Bush proved you can lie to most of the people most of the time and get away with it. Having done it for four years as national security advisor, she was promoted to the prestigious position of Secretary of State. And who says lying doesn’t pay?
None of this trickery got by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the ranking Member of the House Committee on Government Reform. In a letter to the state department’s inspector general, Waxman stated that Rice’s decision “denies the public access to important information about the incidence of terrorism [and] there appears to be a pattern in the administration’s approach to terrorism data: favorable facts are revealed while unfavorable facts are suppressed.”
Rice has now gotten involved in the John Bolton nomination squabble. There are some things that are just so ugly and unseemly — like John Bolton — that almost everyone has good enough sense to stay as far away from as possible. But not our Secretary of State. According to an article in the Washington Post, “Rice told her senior staff she was disappointed about the stream of allegations and said she did not want any information coming out of the department that could adversely affect the nomination.”
This is taking power politics close to the dark — read, illegal — side. The organization Thinkprogress.org found her instructions were a matter of “obstruction of proceedings before departments,” citing U.S. Code 18 Section 1505, which stipulates:
“Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede … the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress — Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”
But after lying to the American people and the Congress about why we needed to wage war in Iraq, could something this trivial get Rice in trouble? In today’s political climate where anything goes, it would seem certainly not. But then who would have thought Bill Clinton’s tryst with Monica Lewinsky would have had such far-reaching effects? You never know what will catch people’s attention.