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A Faerie's Farthing

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Reid's Senate Jujitsu

Reid's Senate Jujitsu



Harry Reid pulled a serious Rockstar! maneuver in the Senate last Tuesday as he decried the "failure of the republican-controlled congress to provide constitutionally mandated oversight." If you're in for a long read, the liveblog diaries from Dailykos are always grand. The short version, though is that the Democratic Caucus invoked Rule 21, moved to a closed session and insisted that the GOP-controlled Stepford Senate fullfill its obligations as a co-equal branch of government and check on executive power.

Specifically, Reid and Durbin more or less demanded that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (chairman: Pat Roberts (R-KS)) follow through on its repeated promises to finish its investigation into pre-invasion Iraq intelligence to determine how we, ostensibly, got things so wrong. I think it's more accurate to say we "made" things so wrong, but I'm getting ahead of myself; we should probably back up quite a bit.

After Baghdad fell and no rose-petal parades were forthcoming, it soon became evident that none of the other predicitions about the invasion were accurate, either: We have yet to uncover any WMDs, the purported links between Saddam and Al Qaida were not substantiated and our military is greeted with IEDs instead of as liberators. "Mission Accomplished" it was not. One month after the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq, Pat Roberts pledged to conduct a "thorough and bipartisan review" of Iraqi WMD and ties to terrorist groups. I guess they didn't mind the "blame game" so much, as long as they could keep it away from the White House, which Phase I of the report did:

The report partially looks at the question of whether pressure was brought to bear on intelligence analysts to get them to shape their assessments to support particular policy objectives. It recounts how Sen. Roberts made repeated public calls for any analysts who believed they had been pressured to alter their assessments to speak with the Committee about their experiences. The Committee also attempted to identify and interview several individuals who had described such pressure in media reports and government documents. The report says that the Committee did not find any evidence that administration officials tried to pressure analysts to change their judgments; however, an evaluation of the Bush Administration's use of intelligence was put off until "phase two" of the investigation.


Since issuing its first report in June, 2004, the committee has consistently stonewalled and put off Phase II of the follow-up indefinitely. Roberts was interviewed by Tim Russert of Meet the Press in July of 2004. When asked if the report would be done by election time, Roberts said it was "more important to get it right," but assured Russert that it was a priority.

And they [the White House] didn't even know about the second part of the--and now this thing has morphed into a change as to whether or not the administration has magnified or has changed it or has manipulated it. The whole key was the use of intelligence. And so consequently that is ongoing right now, as I speak, by our staff, as well as a--other priority goal which is to get at the reform measures that we must do on a very careful and deliberate basis. But even as I'm speaking our staff is working on phase two and we will get it done.


After the election, however, the Phase II report all but disappeared from the GOP's Senate agenda.

Now--with Bush re-elected--Roberts no longer considers Phase II a priority. In mid-March, Roberts declared further investigation pointless.

...In a July 20 letter to US Senator John Kerry, the Kansas Republican made it clear that he doesn't see that as an important priority, and that even if his committee completes phase II, the results may not be made public.

...In remarks last week at the Woodrow Wilson Center, he said the long-awaited phase-two report is "basically on the back burner," indefinitely postponed while the Committee turns its attention to overseeing intelligence reform.


It reminds me of those parents who believe that the only reason junior *ever* does anything wrong is because his "bad influence" friends lead him astray..."What? No; Georgie would never manipulate intelligence. It was those boys at the CIA giving him bad information. If I've warned him about those beureaucrat CIA spooks once, I've warned him a thousand times..."

But it's pretty incontrovertible at this point that the whole shrubCo cast willfully misused the intelligence they were given: Rice emphatically declared that Iraq's aluminum tubes were "really only suited for nuclear weapons," despite disagreement within the intelligence community. Shrubya had those 16 words in his SOTU; Cheney insisted on using information from an informant known to give false statements, etc. Maybe that's why Roberts feels it would be a waste of time to investigate the misuse of intelligence; the evidence already abounds.

Unfortunately for him and his spurious conclusion that analysts were not pressured for specific info, there's a lot of evidence to the contrary in that regard as well. From Cheney's "unprecedented" visits to Langley to various statements from analysts describing the pressure as "intense," the conclusion is inescapable: this administration made no small attempt to influence intelligence reports on Iraq.

Which is what makes the Phase II report so important and Reid's Senate Fu so masterful; if he hadn't taken the Senate to a closed session, the issue would have likely remained on Roberts' back burner for who knows how long. Thanks to Reid, the heat just went up a notch:

For more than two years we have been seeking this investigation. Finally, through the course of this closed session, we were able to get the attention of the majority and lock in (with a timeline) the commitment of the senate intelligence committee to investigate how intelligence was manipulated and manufactured. It's an investigation we desperately need.


Give 'em hell, Harry. Give 'em hell...

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