From the New York Times:
The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.
In response to questions later from a reporter, the deputy White House spokesman, Trent Duffy, said the administration had declined requests to provide testimony by Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff; Mr. Card’s deputy, Joe Hagin; Frances Fragos Townsend, the domestic security adviser; and her deputy, Ken Rapuano.
Mr. Duffy said the administration had also declined to provide storm-related e-mail correspondence and other communications involving White House staff members. Mr. Rapuano has given briefings to the committees, but the sessions were closed to the public and were not considered formal testimony.
“The White House and the administration are cooperating with both the House and Senate,” Mr. Duffy said. “But we have also maintained the president’s ability to get advice and have conversations with his top advisers that remain confidential.”
Forgive my cynicism, but what could there possibly be that is top-secret about discussions related to a response to a hurricane? What can possibly be gained by hampering an investigation into a natural disaster that is likely to be repeated again? Hurricane season starts in less than six months, and as a resident of Florida, I have more than just a casual interest in finding out not only what happened last August but what they plan to do about it next August.
If there are legitimate executive privilege concerns related to disaster reponse, then that’s one thing, although presidents have waived it for lesser investigations. But given this administration’s skill level with events beyond canned campaign events (see below), I can’t help but think they’re doing this just to cover their collective ass and the disaster they’re trying to respond to is their own incompetence.