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It's hardly a secret that the Bush White House has an inordinate fondness for, well, secrecy. When it comes to what the president, the vice president, and their industrious teams have been up to, images of man-sized safes, shredders, and new and creative classified designations cooked up by Dick Cheney's lawyers keep coming to mind.
Getting a sense of what the nation doesn't know about the Bush administration's secrets is not only daunting, it's hard to know where to start. In the soon-to-be-published December issue of the Washington Monthly, editor Charles Homans has a must-read cover story: "Last Secrets of the Bush Administration: How to find out what we still don't know."
The thought of revisiting this history after living through it for eight years is exhausting, and both President Barack Obama and Congress will have every political reason to just move on. But we can't -- it's too important. Fortunately, an accounting of the Bush years is a less daunting prospect than it seems from the outset. If the new president and leaders on Capitol Hill act shrewdly, they can pull it off while successfully navigating the political realities and expectations they now face. A few key actions will take us much of the distance between what we know and what we need to know.
That these "few key actions" seem necessary is an understatement. Homans' prescription -- treat the Naval Observatory like a crime scene; quickly declassify the Bush administration's deliberations and policy implementations (especially from the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel); and use commissions instead of subpoenas -- offers a realistic blueprint to policy makers on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Take a look.
Better yet, after you've taken a look, check out TPM Cafe this week, where the Homans article will be the subject of some great discussion.
Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the former lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, The American Prospect, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, Crooks & Liars, Salon.com’s War Room, Political Wire, and Seven Days.