INTERVIEWS AND INTIMIDATION….Asked about efforts to root out Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction back in January, George Bush had this to say:

The inspectors are there to verify whether or not he is disarming. You hear these reports about Iraqi scientists being interviewed, but there’s a “minder” in the room.

He was quite right to be concerned about intimidation from minders, of course, and later in the month, under pressure from the U.S. and the UN, Iraq began allowing private interviews.

Now let’s flash forward to today, where former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean is in charge of investigating the 9/11 attacks. Apparently minders are now in vogue:

Mr. Kean said that commission members were unhappy that some agencies ? they cited the Justice Department in particular ? had insisted on having monitors present at all commission interviews with their respective officials. That can foster a chilling sense of “intimidation” among witnesses, Mr. Kean said.

Indeed it can, as both George Bush and Saddam Hussein knew very well just a few short months ago. I wonder what it is that John Ashcroft is afraid of?

(Anyway, doesn’t this whole business of “minders” sound a bit Stalin-esque? It kinda reminds me of all those “political officers” they had sprinkled throughout the military to keep an eye on the officers. Brrrr.)