Debt-reduction 'supercommittee' hid in plain sight

      WASHINGTON (AP) - The deficit-reduction supercommittee failed to produce a $1.2 trillion debt-cutting package. But the panel did succeed in conducting virtually all of its negotiations in private, despite the impact its work would have had on the American public.

      After being formed in August, the bipartisan congressional panel held just a handful of open sessions. The meat of the supercommittee's work, which involved arguments and give-and-take proposals over the future shape of politically sensitive programs, took place behind closed doors.

      Advocates of open government criticized the approach. They said no one could be sure what role lobbyists and special interest groups played behind the scenes. Fundamental shifts in American law and policy might have emerged from what one public interest advocate called a "legislative black box."