The communist tyrant launches an "investigation" into a nuclear accident in his country.
But to make sure that nothing critical is said about the way the government operated the nuclear power plant or how it responded to the accident, the government places "minders" in every interview.
The minders loom over the witnesses in an intimidating fashion, tell the witnesses that everything they say will be reported to the central government, and they even jump in an answer some of the questions directed at the witnesses.
Would the Western nations accept the results of the investigation that the government "could not have known" of the dangers from the nuclear power plant, and that the government did everything it could to minimize the damage?
Of course not.
For example, 9/11 Commission chair Thomas Kean points out that if "minders" had been present during the Commission's investigation, that would have been intimidation, which would have stemmed the flow of testimony from the witnesses:
I think the commission feels unanimously that it’s some intimidation to have somebody sitting behind you all the time who you either work for or works for your agency. You might get less testimony than you would.
However, that's exactly what happened to Kean's own 9/11 Commission.
A recently released 9/11 Commission memo [released in January 2009 from the Commission to the National Archives; referenced in the The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Finding Aid: Series Descriptions and Folder Title Lists, page 52, "Memo Concerning Minders Conduct" *] highlights the role of government “minders” who accompanied witnesses interviewed by the commission. It was added to the National Archives’ files at the start of the year and discovered there by History Commons contributor paxvector.
The memo, entitled “Executive Branch Minders’ Intimidation of Witnesses,” complains that:
- Minders “answer[ed] questions directed at witnesses;”
- Minders acted as “monitors, reporting to their respective agencies on Commission staffs lines of inquiry and witnesses’ verbatim responses.” The staff thought this “conveys to witnesses that their superiors will review their statements and may engage in retribution;” and
- Minders “positioned themselves physically and have conducted themselves in a manner that we believe intimidates witnesses from giving full and candid responses to our questions.”
The memo was drafted by three staffers on the commission’s Team 2, which reviewed the overall structure of the US intelligence community. One of the drafters was Kevin Scheid, a senior staffer who led the team. His co-writers were Lorry Fenner, an air force intelligence officer, and lawyer Gordon Lederman. The complaint was sent to the commission’s counsels, Daniel Marcus and Steve Dunne, in October 2003, about halfway through the commission’s 19-month life.
The memo makes clear that the problems were not occurring only with witnesses talking to Team 2, but also in “other teams’ interviews.” A hand-written note on a draft of the memo says, “not one agency or minder – also where we’ve sat in on other Teams’ interviews.”
According to the memo, some minders merely policed prior agreements between the commission and their parent agency about what the commission could ask witnesses, and others were simply there to make a list of documents the commission might want based on a witness’ testimony. However, some minders saw their role differently.
Intimidation through Physical Positioning
The three staffers argued minders should not answer questions for witnesses because they needed to understand not how the intelligence community was supposed to function, but “how the Intelligence Community functions in actuality.” However: “When we have asked witnesses about certain roles and responsibilities within the Intelligence Community, minders have preempted witnesses’ responses by referencing formal polices and procedures. As a result, witnesses have not responded to our questions and have deprived us from understanding the Intelligence Community’s actual functioning and witnesses’ view of their roles and responsibilities.”
The memo also describes the minders’ conduct in detail: “… [M]inders have positioned themselves physically and have conducted themselves in a manner that we believe intimidates witnesses from giving full and candid responses to our questions. Minders generally have sat next to witnesses at the table and across from Commission staff, conveying to witnesses that minders are participants in interviews and are of equal status to witnesses.”