Monday, January 30, 2023

Calculated Omission

At the beginning of the "Overtime" segment of Friday evening's Real Time, a viewer asked one of Bill Maher's guests, whistleblower Frances Haugen "why did Congress fail to hold social media companies accountable for their role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol?" Haugen, the data engineer who exposed Facebook documents in 2021, blamed Facebook for its slow response in turning on safety measures on 1/6/21, noted she testified extensively before the Committee. She stated also

I believe none of that was included- the final write-up report, like it wasn't one of the attributable things. I think part of it was cut. The January 5 committee felt it needed to educate the public on a very broad set of issues and that I think they had to pick and choose on, like, how many things are we going to walk people down that road.

The proper answer is "Liz Cheney." However, while Haugen's reply was mildly disappointing, Bill Maher's response was really bad. The host responded

Which was smart. That committee was smart. I mean, it didn't do anything. No, I've seen interviews with the Republicans and nothing changes anybody's mind about anything. But you can't blame the committee. They put on a show and it was a good show. That was a smart decision-  I'm sorry but they had a lot of fish to fry and that one, O.K.

A good show or, when the media was less interested in performance, what would have been called a "cover-up." The National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex was directed to "investigate the facts, circumstances, and causes relating to the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol" to include "activities of intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, and the Armed Forces, including with respect to intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination and information sharing" within the government. The committee, as led by the de jure chairperson and de facto chairperson, wanted no part of examining these "branches and other instrumentalities of government."

In a PBS report shortly before release of the final report of the committee, correspondent Laura Barron-Lopez seemingly made the case for a September 11- style commission to study the Capitol attack. Having held no person or agency ultimately responsible for the nation being unprepared for the attack on the World Trade Center, that committee itself has been overrated ever since.

Barron-Lopez spoke to two individuals familiar with the nation's intelligence apparatus. Former Secret Service agent Evy Pompouras remarked "you should see this information was passed to this person at this rank, and what did that person do with that information? You do really need to see names and ranks."  Former FBI agent Tracy Walder explained

I think, in the final report, what I would really like to see is accountability.  I think that's the bottom line, whether it's the Secret Service or the FBI or local police, for not taking some of these threats seriously. And they need- either need to have new training in place, in terms of how to understand some of these threats, or we need to look at creating a federal domestic terrorism statute.

There may have been merely a breakdown in communications, as the 9/11 commission found in the period preceding 9/11/01.  However, January 6 committee member Adam Schiff noted "The Secret Service had advance information more than 10 days beforehand regarding the Proud Boys' planning for January 6. We know now, of course, that the Proud Boys and others did lead the assault on our Capitol building."

Donell Harvin, who oversaw the Fusion Security Intelligence Center for the District of Columbia on 1/6/21 and testified thrice before the committee, noted

The committee report surmises that going forward, “the best defense against [the danger to the Capitol] will not come from law enforcement, but from an informed and active citizenry.” This is poetic at best, misleading at worst. The thoughts and actions of those who want to incite or commit violence can’t be controlled, especially when they use the First Amendment as a shield. The “best defense” against that danger is a physical defense posture informed by the intelligence and directed by competent leaders.

Actually, misleading and reprehensible at worst. Harvin concludes

Two years after a deadly assault on our democracy, we are no closer to correcting the system processes and cultures that turned an obscure and mundane day on the electoral calendar into a massive failure of government o be immortalized in the history books.

Liz Cheney is a conservative Republican and institutionalist with a fierce, justified hatred of Donald J. Trump. She did not want the committee to dilute its single-minded focus on the 45th President with an inquiry into the failure of the defense apparatus or of law enforcement, and de jure Chairman Bennie Thompson, no bold progressive he, gladly obliged.  Analysis of financing of the attempted coup was left on the cutting room while Republicans Mike Pence and Bill Barr (the latter a Maher favorite) were favorably treated by the committee. It is its legacy to have exposed the danger posed by one insurrectionist President- and nothing else. Bill Maher and other people of wealth and influence, especially those with friends in high places, must be pleased and satisfied.

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