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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Intel Probe Stalled Until After 2006 Elections?

Pat Roberts just keeps on giving and his party, and not to the American public as a whole, anyway.
NEWSWEEK spoke to both Democratic and GOP officials who requested anonymity because of political sensitivities. Dems say the GOPers have stalled the committee's probe of unorthodox spying by Pentagon hawks by referring it to the Pentagon inspector general. The Dems are pressing for the committee to restart inquiries by its own staff into allegations that officials of the Pentagon's policy office had contacts with controversial sources, like Iran-contra figure Manucher Ghorbanifar, and "cherry-picked" intel reports on alleged ties between Saddam and Al Qaeda that career intel analysts rejected as unreliable. Republicans say they called in the inspector general when Defense officials stopped cooperating with the committee after its Democratic vice chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, suggested Pentagon aides might have engaged in "unlawful" activity.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, along with its House counterpart have a long, long history of bi-partisan cooperation in oversight matters. National security is too important to allow politics to seep in and taint the committee -- and yet, here we are today, with a Senate Intelligence Committee split along partisan lines and a Committee chair so partisan he taints the atmosphere just by walking into the room.

Several pieces of newly declassified information point to a whole lot of contrarian intell thought -- and not just from the CIA, but also from several DIA analysts as well. Big doubts about single sourcing used to justify pre-war claims -- doubts that surfaced more than a year before the Administration started the WMD echo chamber in the media. Is the Senate Intelligence Committee going to finally get to the bottom of all this mess?
After Dems forced the Senate into a rare secret session, congressional leaders said they hoped the phase-two probe could be completed before the end of the year. But now it seems likely to continue into 2006.
Not before the 2006 elections -- not if Pat Roberts can help it, anyway. And why not? He already put it off until the 2004 elections were past -- why not keep going until...well, until they can't put it off any longer. There is always another election cycle, but this time, will the public be satisfied by the stall tactic?

Guess we'll see: do we have a public that wants the truth or a shell game?

It's not going to be an easy sell for Roberts and the rest of the GOP. The Democrats have seized on this issue in the run-up to the 2006 elections, and for good reason: the feel that they were deliberately lied to, along with the American public, and they want a full explanation and accounting from the Administration as to how much and why, as Doug Jehl and Richard Stevenson point out in the NYTimes.
At a news conference Monday on Capitol Hill, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, ran through a list of topics the administration had cited to show that Iraq was a threat that had to be dealt with, including Mr. Hussein's efforts to acquire nuclear material and aluminum tubes that could be used in a nuclear program and terrorist training camps in Iraq.

"All of these things simply were not true," Mr. Reid said. "The administration knew that, but they did not share that with me or anyone else in Congress that I know of."
Okay, sure, it's too late for the 2004 campaign, but better late than never. Here's hoping this time we get some complete answers.

My question: What is the Administration working so hard to hide? You don't launch a full-out assault, campaign style, against claims that have no merit -- you simply dismiss them immediately with facts. But in this case, the facts aren't there, so we are being treated to smoke and mirrors courtesy of Karl and company. Democrats aren't buying it, and neither is the American public if the most recent poll numbers are any indication. But the real test will be whether or not the press can stay skeptical -- or if they fall back on being Administration stenographers. Guess we'll see.

UPDATE: Kaplan has more in Slate.