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The National Security Archive at George Washington University

CONSORTIUM NEWS - Edited by Robert Parry


November 13, 2003

Senate Republicans Freeze Iraq Inquiry Over Leaked Dem Strategy Memo

Frist Freezes Senate Probe of Prewar Iraq Data (11/8/03 - Washington Post)

Angry about a leaked Democratic memo, the Republican leadership of the Senate yesterday took the unusual step of canceling all business of the committee investigating prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) called on the author of the memo -- which laid out a possible Democratic strategy to extend the investigation to include the White House and executive branch -- to "identify himself or herself . . . disavow this partisan attack in its entirety" and deliver "a personal apology" to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

Only if those steps are taken, Frist said, "will it be possible for the committee to resume its work in an effective and bipartisan manner -- a manner deserving of the confidence of other members of the Senate and the executive branch."

Roberts followed Frist on the floor and said that unless the Democratic members "properly" address the issue, "I am afraid that it will be impossible to return to 'business as usual' in the committee."

A committee meeting scheduled for yesterday was canceled, and none has been scheduled for next week, according to a senior committee staff member.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), the committee's ranking Democrat, said he was "really disappointed" with the Republican action. "Whose advantage is it to derail asking the tough questions on prewar intelligence and the use and misuse of it?" he asked.

The GOP move follows a month of extraordinary maneuvering by Democrats and Republicans to take political advantage of the committee's look at how the intelligence community collected and analyzed intelligence on Iraq over the past decade.

Rockefeller, prodded by the Democratic leadership, did not want the blame for any exaggerations of the threat posed by Iraq to rest largely with the CIA; instead he wanted the panel to investigate the separate question of how the administration used the information it was given.

The memo that set off yesterday's events was written by a committee Democratic staff aide and laid out for Rockefeller possible steps that could be taken by Democrats to press their approach. It also proposed publicizing any limitations the Republican majority put on the inquiry and exposing what it termed "the senior administration officials who made the case for a unilateral, preemptive war."

Rockefeller has said he did not share the memo with other Democrats on the committee or with the Senate leadership.

Yesterday, Frist appeared to close the door entirely on the Democrats' wishes. After discussions with Roberts, the majority leader said that "the committee's review is nearly complete" and "we have jointly determined the committee can and will complete its review this year."

"They can't do that," Rockefeller said, noting that hundreds of pages of requested documents have recently been promised by the State Department and Pentagon and more interviews have been scheduled.

In addition, he noted that the final report from David Kay, who heads the CIA's search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, has not been completed. "What can we say about prewar intelligence without Kay's report?" Rockefeller asked.

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