Skip to comments.Political Pressures on Iraq Inquiry Overwhelm Senate Panel's Nonpartisan Tradition (MemoGate spin)
Posted on 11/13/2003 1:31:24 AM PST by kattracks
WASHINGTON (AP) - It was a considerable test for the Senate Intelligence Committee's tradition of nonpartisanship: Could it resist political pressures as it examined whether President Bush based his decision to go to war with Iraq on sound intelligence? The answer appears to be no.
The panel's meetings have been canceled while Democrats and Republicans accuse each other of trying to manipulate the inquiry into prewar intelligence. Democrats say Republicans are protecting Bush by refusing to examine whether the administration distorted intelligence. Republicans say a leaked memo shows the Democrats want to manipulate the inquiry to embarrass Bush.
Former committee members and staff say they have never seen the panel so divided in its 27-year history. But they also say they have never seen it deal with an issue that could have such direct bearing on a presidential election.
"Here you are a year away from an election and allegations are being made about the basis on which the administration took the country to war," said former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H. "Obviously the stakes are very high here and, unfortunately, high stakes tend to dilute bipartisanship."
The committee and its House counterpart are the main watchdogs of intelligence agencies, authorizing their work and funding. The committees try to ensure the agencies can detect potential threats while working within the confines of the law.
"Most of the activities that those agencies carry out are carried out in secret and you don't have the type of checks and balances you have in other government activities," said Britt Snider, who served as an attorney for the committee and later worked for the CIA.
If the panel were seen as political, intelligence agencies might be reluctant to cooperate, he said. "They become kind of pawns in this political back and forth and they don't know quite what to make of it," Snider said.
Committee rules are designed to keep politics out and both parties have generally worked together well on the panel. A one-time chairman of the committee, former Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., called the panel "the least partisan committee that I served on" in 18 years in the Senate.
That nonpartisanship has been strained at times, though most disputes have taken place behind closed doors. One of the larger public disputes was over the first President Bush's nomination of Robert Gates as CIA director in 1991.
Even that dispute, however, didn't have the kind of political consequences that the Iraq inquiry has.
The strains over prewar Iraq intelligence developed early. Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said the intelligence could be examined as part of the committee's routine oversight. Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wanted a formal investigation. They agreed to an inquiry, avoiding the word "investigation." The scope did not include a review of the administration's handling of intelligence, but did not preclude it either.
When newspapers last month reported the inquiry was almost completed and blame would fall on intelligence agencies, Rockefeller and other Democrats insisted it was far from over because the White House's role hadn't been examined.
In a sign of unity, Roberts and Rockefeller sent letters together last month to Bush administration officials seeking more information for the inquiry. But then Roberts surprised Rockefeller by announcing, in a joint appearance live on CNN, that the White House would turn over all the requested documents. He later said he spoke too hastily.
When the memo from a Democratic staffer on the committee was leaked last week, Republicans demanded that Democrats renounce it, identify the staffer responsible and apologize. The memo suggested that Democrats "pull the majority along as far as we can" to secure new disclosures and possibly "pull the trigger" on launching an independent investigation next year.
"If I remember correctly, that happens to be a general election year," Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said on the Senate floor.
Democrats said the memo was never circulated, but reflected their frustration with the inquiry. They also questioned whether Republicans stole the memo.
While Republicans have canceled committee meetings, Roberts said staff is continuing work on the inquiry. He said he hopes they will complete a draft interim report within weeks and that senators can vote on it after they return in January.
I love the smell of Liberal sweat in the morning.
This comment attempts to equally blame both parties. That simply does not fit in this instance.
Clinton showed his true color colors by "I did not have sex with that woman" and full support from his supporters. Now we have "I did not know that Sadaam did not have weapons of mass destruction", and a full denunciation from his supporters. His supporters are as disinterested in finding the truth as Clinton's supporters were. Both sides are culpable in hiding the truth. I call that equally dishonest and bipartisan.
And pre-war intelligence was not 100% accurate?!?
Oh my word!!!
Heads shall roll!!!!
By the way, find me some colonists nowadays, and I'll find you some muskets.
David Kay was aware that Iraq had poison gas in the past. He said that this made his search more complicated because of traces of past WMD weapons. It is confusing trying to assemble the pieces with the administration promoting the war and the opposition opposing it with their differing propaganda.