Good morning. In January, the Integrity Committee
of the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE)
completed an investigation into allegations of misconduct by Robert
“Moose” Cobb, the Inspector General of the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA). The report was damning.
The report found that Mr. Cobb abused his authority
and showed a lack of the appearance of independence from NASA
management, and concluded that discipline “up to and including
removal” was appropriate. After reading the report, Chairman Gordon
and I and Senator Bill Nelson, the chair of the counterpart
committee in the Senate, called upon President Bush to remove Mr.
Cobb and Inspector General of NASA.
Mr. Cobb serves at the pleasure of the President,
and it apparently still pleases President Bush for Mr. Cobb to serve
as the NASA Inspector General.
This subcommittee will likely hear from Mr. Cobb
and others in the next few weeks concerning the allegations of
misconduct that were the subject of the PCIE report. As damning as
the report was, it appears on closer examination that the report was
The subject of this hearing is the conduct of NASA
officials in handling the Cobb matter.
Specifically, this hearing concerns a meeting with
the staff of the Office of Inspector General of NASA, a meeting all
staff members were expected to attend, a meeting at which Mr. Cobb
sat beside Administrator Michael Griffin while Administrator Griffin
disputed the findings of the PCIE report. NASA officials certainly
should have known that such a meeting would only further the
appearance of a lack of independence by the NASA Inspector
In his prepared statement, Michael Wholly, the
General Counsel at NASA, is in high dudgeon about the accounts of
NASA employees who attended the meeting, which he testifies “range
from the patently false to the ridiculous.” He asserts that this
subcommittee should be skeptical of “allegations slipped under the
door or thrown over the transom, often anonymously or with the
request for anonymity.” That is exactly how whistle blowers provide
information to oversight committees of Congress, and to Inspector
Generals acting independently as required by statute.
We could have known for certain just exactly what
happened at that meeting, and not had to decide whose wildly
conflicting account to believe, because there was a DVD made of the
meeting, and then copies were made of the DVD. Mr. Wholly personally
destroyed those tapes.
A great American lawyer, Elihu Root, said that
“About half of the practice of a decent lawyer is telling would-be
clients that they are damned fools and should stop.” That is the
view of the ethical expectations of a lawyer that I learned in law
school, and it remains the expectation set forth in the Code of
Professional Responsibility. Instead, the view within NASA
apparently was the DVDs could be destroyed absent advice that any
legal arguments that the DVDs should be preserved was
“CATEGORICALLY,… FATALLY, LEGALLY, FLAWED.”
I worry that the ethical obligations of lawyers
that I learned in law school are now regarded as quaint and
antiquated, like the Geneva Convention.
NASA officials, Mr. Wholly and Paul Morrell, knew
that there were questions about the propriety of the meeting, they
knew that the Cobb matter was the subject of interest by the
oversight committees of the House and Senate, and they knew that the
DVD of the meeting would be subject to disclosure, and Mr. Wholly
made a conscious decision to destroy the DVDs. It is impossible not
to conclude the worst from that conduct.