Tim Noah: “Happy Birthday, Iran Contra!”
Timothy Noah has a great piece in slate.com entitled “Happy Birthday, Iran Contra!”
In it, he questions why the scandal’s 20th anniversary has seen virtually no media coverage. Noah’s take: (1) The various factual and legal issues were “mind-numbingly complex,” and hence not conducive to media sound-bites and (2) Noah makes the interesting argument that: “To the extent one can tease out a story line, the Iran-Contra saga is at odds with what we “know” about some of the characters involved, a great many of whom hold positions of power in the current Bush administration.”
He also offers some lessons that we can glean from the scandal including:
“Even when Congress forbids specified activities touching on national security, presidents will be tempted to ignore the law, and when they do, they will tend not to suffer many consequences.”
On that last point, keep in mind that the NSA surveillance program is still ongoing, it is unclear what if anything the new (or lame-duck) Congress will do about it, and the Bush Administration only just approved security clearances for a limited DOJ investigation of the program (one that will not consider the program’s legality), after effectively shutting down a more expansive DOJ ethics investigation last year by denying security clearances to investigators.
Keep in mind also that a grand jury investigation has been convened as a possible precursor to prosecutions for those who leaked and/or published information revealing the existence of the once-secret NSA program. I hope to blog more at some point about this last subject (criminal prosecution of classified information leaks).