I used to think when a politician announced an inquiry it meant arms length from politics and complete freedom of access for the inquiry participants. It’s what most people think and why a politician who calls for such an inquiry is generally lauded.
I learned the truth after appointment to my first commission of inquiry concerning dispute over water in a lake. The definitions and terms of reference (TR) were so narrow we couldn”t even access the data we needed to reach a resolution. It was clear they were orchestrated to predetermine the result. I told the government Minister who had appointed the inquiry that if we did not get access to the full material I would go to the media and explain the circumstance. He decided that was a bigger political problem than denying the information.
Production of definitions and terms of reference are produced in various cooperations and combinations. They can come from the politician, especially one in a cabinet position. They are sometimes a composite between senior bureaucrats and politicians. More often today, they are the output of the bureaucrats who exploit the politicians lack of knowledge or expertise on the issue. This is endemic in climate and environmental issues as politicians will compound their vulnerability by wanting to appear ‘green’.
Once I began research on the lake water conflict issue I discovered three previous inquiries spanning back over 100 years. The very first, at the end of the 19th century, identified the problems and offered workable solutions. It, like all subsequent inquiry reports, simply went on the shelf because the political people had moved on, not because the problem was resolved. It did produce one thing useful. It added to my list of acronyms, like NIMBY (Not in my back yard), one that I heard from another person involved in commissions of inquiry: A.N.I.M.T.O.O, which stands for Absolutely Not In My Term Of Office.
Besides controlling the terms of reference, drafters usually try to further guarantee the outcome by who they appoint to the inquiry. I was appointed because a former student was in a position to influence. They didn’t get what they expected. Choice of people is a little more difficult because their records are usually available. Fortunately, it is also often the case that people behave differently when they discover what is actually occurring. In many areas the number of people available can be limited by arguing the need for “expertise”. I remember an inquiry into a proposed merger of two major companies in Canada that required expertise of at least 20 people. They could not find 20 people with expertise who were not, in one way or another, connected to the two companies involved. Conflict of interest is a common inherent problem.
These limitations on an inquiry lead to most conspiracy theories. People that raise them are dismissed as conspiracy theorists, an accusation which has turned into a slur against the intelligence and motives of those involved. Here is an example of a conspiracy theory resulting from limiting terms of reference.
The Kennedy assassination is one of the biggest on the net and in terms of the number of books written. I watched Chief Justice Warren, who chaired the Inquiry, interviewed about the investigation. He was asked to explain why he didn”t investigate the connections between Jack Ruby and the Dallas Mafia. He simply replied, “It was not in my terms of reference.” I knew exactly what he was saying, but most of the public would not understand the implications. However, many were very aware of the connections.
If you want to see commissions of inquiry designed to whitewash and divert casino through inadequate terms of reference, affiliations of appointees, or access to outcomes, then look at those appointed to investigate the University of East Anglia, Climatic Research Unit (CRU) email leaks and scientific misbehavior. One is known as the Muir Russell Inquiry, the other the Lord Oxburgh Inquiry. The cover-up was so blatant it was easily detectable. Clive Crook, Senior editor of The Atlantic wrote a searing indictment of the whitewash.
“I had hoped, not very confidently, that the various Climategate inquiries would be severe. This would have been a first step towards restoring confidence in the scientific consensus. But no, the reports make things worse. At best they are mealy-mouthed apologies; at worst they are patently incompetent and even wilfully wrong. The climate-science establishment, of which these inquiries have chosen to make themselves a part, seems entirely incapable of understanding, let alone repairing, the harm it has done to its own cause.”
Another inquiry was set up to investigate the role of Michael Mann and Penn State in release of information following FOI requests. It was quickly identified as inadequate and a “whitewash”. As Steve Milloy noted,
“It was set up to be a total whitewash and the panel made no effort to investigate,” “They didn”t even interview the recipients of the e-mails. It is ridiculous.”
Maurice Strong guaranteed the uniformity of actions among national weather agencies when he set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) through their governing body, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). By taking politics into the bureaucracies he removed what was happening from political and therefore public scrutiny. Whenever something goes wrong or information is leaked out it means an inquiry, not to reveal the truth, but to perform a coverup.
Next time an inquiry is established look at the problem, the terms of reference, and names and affiliations of appointees and you will invariably know the outcome.
As Cicero said,
“Quis custodet ipsos custodes?”
“Who guards the guards”