Democrats Mull Politicizing Iraq War Intelligence

Published November 05, 2003

| FoxNews.com

Fox News has obtained a document believed to have been written by the Democratic staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee (search) that outlines a strategy for exposing what it calls "the administration's dubious motives" in the lead-up to the war in Iraq.

The memo, provided late Tuesday by a source on the Committee and reported by Fox News' Sean Hannity, discusses the timing of a possible investigation into pre-war Iraq (search) intelligence in such a way that it could bring maximum embarrassment to President Bush in his re-election campaign.

Among other things, the memo recommends that Democrats "prepare to launch an investigation when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the [Senate] majority. We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation of the administration's use of intelligence at any time — but we can only do so once ... the best time would probably be next year."

The last paragraph of the memo reads, "Intelligence issues are clearly secondary to the public's concern regarding the insurgency in Iraq."

Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (search), R-Kan., appeared clearly shocked by the memo, which Sen. Jay Rockefeller (search), D-W. Va., ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, acknowledged was written in draft form and not meant for distribution.

Roberts said Tuesday a leaked strategy memo from Rockefeller's staff "exposes politics in its most raw form." 

The memo discusses strategy for "revealing the misleading, if not flagrantly dishonest, methods and motives of senior administration officials who made the case for unilateral pre-emptive war." It discussed how Democrats could press for an independent investigation that has already been
rejected by the Republican-led Congress or launch their own investigation.

In a statement, Roberts said that the memo "appears to be a road map for how the Democrats intend to politicize what should be a bipartisan, objective review of prewar intelligence."

Rockefeller did not say who wrote the memo.

"The draft memo was not approved nor was it shared with any member of the Senate Intelligence Committee or anyone else," he said. "It was likely taken from a waste basket or through unauthorized computer access."

Rockefeller added, "The memo clearly reflects staff frustration with the conduct of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation and the difficulties of obtaining information from the administration."

Roberts said he believes the strategy outlined in the memo may constitute a violation of Senate ethics rules, an issue he may pursue with the ethics committee.

"I have no idea how this became public. I am a little stunned. You can't politicize the Intelligence Committee. The memo is blatantly partisan. Members of the committee on the Republican side are frustrated, outraged and indignant. I hope we can get past this," Roberts said.

While the memo does not appear to be written as a straight political strategy piece, the memo does suggest using Roberts, who is described as helpful and willing to make concessions to Democrats. The memo advises continuing to seek favors from Roberts until and as long as it is useful.

Despite the memo's backhanded praise of Roberts, Rockefeller said Democrats are frustrated with the cooperation they are receiving from the chairman.

"Exploring or asserting the rights of the minority under the intelligence committee rules in no way amounts to politicizing intelligence. The American people deserve a full accounting of why we sent our sons and daughters into war," he said.

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have complained about the slowness of the Bush administration to provide requested materials and set last Friday as the response deadline. The senators said three federal agencies have complied with their request. But the White House, while saying it would work with the committee, has not agreed to comply.

On Sunday, Roberts announced during a televised interview that the White House had agreed to supply the requested documents and the interviews.

"I probably spoke too hastily," Roberts said Tuesday. "When you are dealing with the White House, they want to make sure they are not getting into a precedent in regard to various documents used by the executive."

He said a White House official, whom he declined to identify, left him with the impression last weekend the material would be provided. Asked if there was further communication after his remarks Sunday, he said, "Yeah -- in the Monday Washington Post."

He said White House comments in the newspaper distancing it from Roberts' statements "prompted meaningful dialogue between me and the White House."

But he said he was satisfied with the outcome of the conversations. "I think we'll have a positive relationship, and I think the documents will be provided. And the interviews," he said.

Rockefeller wasn't as confident.

"It's very hard for me to come to believe that the White House is going to cooperate on things which potentially could put them in a different light," he said, speaking separately to reporters.

Rockefeller said if the committee doesn't receive the material it seeks, the leaders will call the department heads, "and the next step after that one considers very, very carefully the subpoena option."

"This is not a game," he said. "This is a question of how did we get into this war."

Roberts said subpoenas would be a last resort. "I think we can work this out without any subpoenas," he said.

Fox News' Brian Wilson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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http://www.foxnews.com/story/2003/11/05/democrats-mull-politicizing-iraq-war-intelligence