Roll Call executive editor Morton Kondracke accused Democrats of attempting to politicize the Senate Intelligence Committee, falsely asserting that the committee had already investigated allegations that the Bush administration "lied about weapons of mass destruction" in the run-up to the Iraq war. In fact, no governmental entity to date, including the Intelligence Committee, has investigated the administration's use of prewar intelligence.
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In response to misleading questions from Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume on the March 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Roll Call executive editor Morton M. Kondracke accused Democrats of attempting to politicize the Senate Intelligence Committee, falsely asserting that the committee had already investigated allegations that the Bush administration "lied about weapons of mass destruction" in the run-up to the Iraq war. To date, no governmental entity, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, has investigated the administration's use of prewar intelligence.
Kondracke made his false claim during an "all-star panel" discussion about Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-TN) recent threat to restructure the "nonpartisan" Senate Intelligence Committee "so that it is organized and operated like most Senate committees." The intelligence committee's current rules give the minority more power than on most other Senate committees. For example, the ranking minority member of the intelligence committee occupies the position of "vice chairman" and has the power to issue subpoenas.
Appearing on the panel, Boston Globe Washington bureau chief Nina Easton explained that Frist "is concerned enough, or bothered enough" by a potential investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program that he is "threatening to remove that kind of power status for the minority" on the committee. Commenting on Frist's threat, Kondracke noted that Democrats "wanted to investigate the possibility that the administration lied about weapons of mass destruction." Hume then asked him: "But there had been previous investigations of all that, had there not? ... And including work by the intelligence committee itself on these issues?" Kondracke's answer was false: "Yes, indeed. But ... the Democrats wanted to go back and investigate it with a political edge."
While the Senate Intelligence Committee did release the results of the first phase of its Iraq intelligence investigation in its 2004 Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, that report dealt with the intelligence community's production of intelligence. The committee postponed until after the 2004 presidential election analysis of whether the Bush administration misused that intelligence, pledging to include it in the second -- as yet uncompleted -- phase of the report. The 2004 report specifically noted that among the issues to be addressed in "phase two" -- which, the report said, were "currently under review by the Committee" -- was the question of "whether public statements, reports, and testimony regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials made between the Gulf War period and the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information."
Similarly, the Bush-appointed Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction -- commonly known as the Robb-Silberman Commission -- noted in its March 2005 Report to the President that it had been authorized by Bush to investigate the production, not the use, of intelligence:
Second, we were not authorized to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence assessments they received from the Intelligence Community. Accordingly, while we interviewed a host of current and former policymakers during the course of our investigation, the purpose of those interviews was to learn about how the Intelligence Community reached and communicated its judgments about Iraq's weapons programs--not to review how policymakers subsequently used that information.
From the March 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
EASTON: Frist, however, is concerned enough, or bothered enough, by this potential investigation [of the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program] that he's threatening -- it sounds to me almost like when he was threatening to get rid of the filibuster -- he's threatening to remove that kind of power status for the minority. The danger, I think, in his -- political danger for him is this idea of partisanship being thrown back in his face, because, in fact, three senators, by my count, Olympia Snowe [R-ME], Chuck Hagel [R-NE], and Mike DeWine [R-OH], actually want to join with Democrats in having a public investigation.
KONDRACKE: Yeah. That's the way it looks to me, too, on the NSA spying issue. What [Sen.] Pat Roberts [R-KS] wanted to do --
HUME: Pat Roberts is the Republican chairman of the committee.
KONDRACKE: -- Pat Roberts being the chairman of the committee -- wanted to take the findings of the weapons of mass destruction investigation that they conducted and say, "Look, we've -- these -- this raises big issues about intelligence as to Iran and North Korea, future threats that the country might face. Let's investigate whether we're -- we've got good intelligence about that." The Democrats wanted something completely different, as you say. They wanted to investigate the possibility that the administration lied about weapons of mass destruction or that the [then-Iraqi National Congress leader] Ahmed Chalabi was, you know, influential in changing our --
HUME: But there had been previous investigations of all that, had there not?
KONDRACKE: Well --
HUME: And including work by the intelligence committee itself on these issues?
KONDRACKE: Yes, indeed. But they wanted ... but the Democrats wanted to go back and investigate it with a political edge. There's no question about it. NSA spying is another thing. Now they want to do Dubai as well. And their -- the difference is, it is politics -- it's obviously politics is what's at the bottom here. The Democrats want to use this as part of an opportunity to expose President Bush and win the next election and use the intelligence committee to do it.