Re: It's about government control
And it was Nasa managers who wrongly insisted that nothing could be done for the ship's crew if there were serious damage, when in fact, most unusually, on this occasion there was another bird (Atlantis I believe) well advanced in the launch process that could have rescued Columbia's crew.
Atlantis was the closest to being ready, which wasn't that unusual - for much of the Shuttle's career there were launches a month or so apart (not that there were launches monthly, but you'd get a cluster of 2-3 in a 4 month period and then nothing for 6 months). Nonetheless it was several weeks away and Columbia's life support was good for maybe a couple of weeks. There would have been significant corner-cutting to the point that losing Atlantis was a significant risk.
Additionally, the EVA suits Columbia was carrying are not designed to be self-donned. They require help to get on. There is a major question as to whether at least two of the Columbia crew would have been physically able to get suited, into the airlock and across to Atlantis (even if it hadn't blown up on launch or suffered similar foam-strike damage).
Getting more data from DoD assets would only have confirmed their worst suspicions - there was no possibility of in-orbit repair. It is reasonable to suggest that at least one orbiter and two crew were already dead. The question was whether to risk another orbiter and 2-3 more crew to pick up the remaining 5 astronauts.