11/22/2007 04:40 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Let There Be Light

Any reader of the independent reports on the causes of the New Orleans flooding disaster, and comparing them with the Corps' serial versions of the event -- in initial public statements, and ultimately in its "IPET" report -- has to have assumed a certain amount of, shall we say, tension between the independent engineers and the Army group. Obviously, the latter were investigating the failure of their own agency's work, always a dicey matter. Now, Wednesday's Times-Picayune reports that the tensions are flaring into the open. Dr. Ray Seed of UC Berkeley, co-leader (with Dr. Bob Bea) of the ILIT report, partially funded by the National Science Foundation, charges in a letter to the American Society of Civil Engineers that that group and the Corps systemically tried to thwart independent investigations. Among his charges: the Corps tried to keep independent investigators from arriving at the scene of the floodwall failures right after the event (the Corps claimed safety reasons, more skeptical observers might think the Corps wanted time to massage the evidence on the ground), and a fight over the independent team's ability to speak at a press conference that week, prompting the Dutch scientist on the team to write a one-word memo: "Coverup!!"

Seed blames upper management at the Corps and the ASCE, reports Mark Schleifstein:

As an example, he cites a joint project of both teams to prepare a technical field report for Congress, in advance of a Nov. 2, 2005, hearing. But Roth, the ASCE deputy, prohibited the ASCE team members from co-writing or signing on to the report by reminding them of a "nondisclosure" clause they had signed, preventing them from sharing their data with other researchers or the public.

What's the Latin for "let there be a nondisclosure clause"?