Five WH Goals for Malaysian Airliner Probe We Should Apply to U.S. Gov't Scandals

Craig Bannister
By Craig Bannister | July 18, 2014 | 10:49 AM EDT

The process outlined yesterday by the White House press secretary for investigating the downed Malaysian airliner Flight 17 would work well for scandals here at home, too.Whether it's the murder of Americans in Benghazi, the scandal of the IRS targeting conservative organizations, "Fast and Furious," or other administration scandals, the White House press secretary's principles for investigating the Malaysian airliner disaster would work well:
  1. Ensure "a full, credible, and unimpeded" investigation (people with knowledge of the issue would willingly testify and the government would not hinder the probe),
  2. Get to the bottom of things "as quickly as possible" (So that it wouldn't take so long that someone could ask, "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
  3. Ensure "no evidence be tampered with in any way" (hard drives with important information wouldn't be destroyed, etc.)
  4. Ensure "all potential evidence" is "undisturbed" (e.g., pertinent e-mails wouldn't be lost or deleted)
  5. "Contribute immediate assistance" from any relevant government officials and agencies (if people with knowledge of the scandal were held in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the investigation, the government would actually do something about it).

The White House press secretary's full statement is presented below (emphasis added):

The United States is shocked by the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and we offer our deep condolences to all those who lost loved ones on board. We continue to seek information to determine whether there were any American citizens on board.

It is critical that there be a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation as quickly as possible. We urge all concerned - Russia, the pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine - to support an immediate cease-fire in order to ensure safe and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators and in order to facilitate the recovery of remains. The role of international organizations - such as the United Nations and the OSCE in Ukraine - may be particularly relevant for this effort, and we will be in touch with affected nations and our partners in these organizations in the coming hours and days to determine the best path forward. In the meantime, it is vital that no evidence be tampered with in any way and that all potential evidence and remains at the crash site are undisturbed. The United States remains prepared to contribute immediate assistance to any international investigation, including through resources provided by the NTSB and the FBI.

While we do not yet have all the facts, we do know that this incident occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that is fueled by Russian support for the separatists, including through arms, materiel, and training. This incident only highlights the urgency with which we continue to urge Russia to immediately take concrete steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and to support a sustainable cease-fire and path toward peace that the Ukrainian government has consistently put forward.