Monday, November 07, 2005

Laura Rozen War and Piece

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November 06, 2005
Phase II

I'm supposed to be finishing an article, but this is not unrelated. On Fox news today, Brit Hume helpfully offered a sneak preview of the Pat Roberts/White House strategy over the next few days. In lieu of focusing on other parts of the Phase II investigation that was supposed to broadly be about policymakers' use of the Iraq intelligence they received, Roberts will leak to the White House and the GOP the pre-war statements by Democrats about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. (If you heard Newt Gingrich on ABC's This Week, you'll have gotten a taste of that, with statements of Rockefeller, Schumer and Hillary Clinton discussed). Fair enough. As Rockefeller pointed out on CNN's Late Edition today, it was president Bush that took this country to war, not the Democrats.

But unfortunately, this airing of Democrats' pre-war statements is the only part of the Phase II investigation that Roberts has ever shown any interest in. In fact, sometimes it seems he doesn't remember the full terms of reference that all 17 members of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Republicans and Democrats, unanimously agreed to investigate back in February 2004. We're still waiting, for instance, on points D, F and G:

D. the postwar findings about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and weapons programs and links to terrorism and how they compare with prewar assessments; ...

F. any intelligence activities relating to Iraq conducted by the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group (PCTEG) and the Office of Special Plans within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; and

G. the use by the Intelligence Community of information provided by the Iraqi National Congress (INC).

Sen. Roberts indicated on Tuesday that he was basically done with his investigation and the Democrats knew that, and we could expect something as soon as this week. He didn't understand why Senate Majority leader Bill Frist had agreed to appoint a task force of three Republican and three Democratic Senators to report back to the full Senate on the status of Roberts' missing investigation.

In February 2004, at the time the full Senate Intel committee announced their unanimous agreement to the expanded terms of reference of their important investigation, Roberts was cited in the committee's press release, "The resolution adopted unanimously today illustrates the commitment of all members to a thorough review, to learning the necessary lessons from our experience with Iraq, and to ensuring that our armed forces and policymakers benefit from the best and most reliable intelligence that can be collected."

More than 2,000 US soldiers have died in Iraq, almost 1,500 US soldiers killed since Roberts made his promise to deliver this report twenty months ago. The insurgency rages on. There were no weapons of mass destruction, and there was no meaningful cooperation between Saddam and Al Qaeda before we got there. The Fitzgerald investigation has exposed that the White House was making its case for war to the Congress and the American people based on some key judgements not supported by the intelligence community, arrived at by unconventional channels mysterious to many of us. The American people have been more than patient waiting for some answers. Senate Democrats are fighting for our right to get them. Are the other Republicans on the committee going to hold Roberts to his promise? Or is their larger commitment as our elected representatives to provide meaningful oversight of activities we are not privy to going to be exposed as totally fraudulent?

Update: Roberts has made clear in talk show appearances today he doesn't intend to fulfill his promise for a meaningful investigation. Sen. Hagel, do you have any obligation provide the families of the dead soldiers a fuller investigation? Sen. Snowe? Sen. Warner? Senators, you have allowed torture to go on under your watch, black site CIA prisons unreported even to your committee, and staggering expansions of government intrusions into the lives of ordinary Americans without any debate. All of these abuses were committed by agencies and as the outgrowth of laws that were supposed to be overseen by the Senate Select Intelligence committee. These are not the values I learned growing up in Roberts' and my home state of Kansas that this country stands for. I can't believe that many Republicans are not deeply troubled by them as well.

Update II: Hold your horses. The very civilly disobedient Jane Hamsher is cancelling that manicure to hear what Roberts came up with in terms of Democrats' pre-war intelligence statements.

And yes, Barton Gellman gets my vote for Pulitzer Prize, with his Washington Post colleague Dana Priest. Are there two people using journalism to fight for a better America against the forces of Pat Roberts and Dick Cheney, the forces of torture and intimidation and assault on civil liberties? To shine a light on the torture and abuse that Roberts has only been too happy to facilitate? There you go. Two heroes.

Posted by Laura at November 6, 2005 04:26 PM


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