One of my best Professors, a Religion and Judaic Studies specialist here at Carleton, once remarked on the propensity of bureaucrats to use the passive voice. "If you want to avoid accountability for someting, always use the passive voice."
The context for the discussion was on how the US State Department responded to pleas by the American Jewish community to more forcifully address--rhetorically, militarily, any way at all--the Holocaust during WWII. The responses were all in the passive voice: "reservations were expressed", "the issue was raised", "proposals were taken under consideration." No trail, no specifics, no actor, no agent, no nothing. And, sure enough, the US continued to downplay the genocide occurring--refusing to allow in Jewish refugees, not bombing tracks leading to death camps--until it was far too late.
The Holocaust is an extreme example, meant only to show just what this rhetorical tactic can be made to justify (or, more accurately, ignore). I suppose it shouldn't surprise us, then, when it pops up in compartively lighter situations. NATO General David Richards admitted that "mistakes were made" in a NATO strike that killed 70 Afghani civilians. Begging the General's pardon, but "mistakes weren't made", someone made mistakes. Finding that someone or someones and why they made their mistake or mistakes is a moral imperative when you have that many innocent lives on your hands. The NATO Supreme Commander, James Jones, promised a thorough investigation, but this type of bureaucratic obfuscation is not a promising start.
It's late, I'm tired, and this was probably an unjustified rant. Sometimes the passive voice is just the passive voice. But I am sick of this culture of unaccountability, and I am sick of not being able to detect a pulse among the polity to the end of holding people accountable for their sins. Something needs to change.