Political Agenda Behind Iraq Intel Probe?

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, November 4, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: A FOX News exclusive. Earlier today I obtained a copy of a memo apparently written by a Democratic member of the Senate select committee on intelligence, outlining a strategy to handle questions about the Bush administration's use of intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq.

Among other things, the memo says, "Prepare to launch an independent investigation when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the 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 to do so will probably be next year."

A short time ago, the ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller (search), released a statement that said, in part, "The draft memo leaked to the press today was written by staff and was likely taken from a waste basket or through unauthorized computer access. The draft memo was not approved nor was it shared with any member of the Senate Intelligence Committee (search) or anyone else."

We called every Democratic senator who was on this committee. They either declined our invitation to appear on show, or they did not respond.

Joining us now is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Senator Pat Roberts.

Senator, I find this memo chilling. I find it very serious. What are your thoughts on it?

SEN. PAT ROBERTS,R-Kan., SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, basically, I sort of considered it a slap in the face, Sean. I bent over backwards to try to work with my Democratic friends and colleagues, because on the Intelligence Committee, we have to act in a bipartisan way.

We're the ones that have the oversight responsibility on the nation's intelligence and how it applies to our national security. And right now, we are very close to finishing an inquiry in regards to the credibility and timing of the intelligence prior to the war.

And it seems that this draft memo is very political. It prejudges that, and it has some sentences in there that personally, I don't care for. It says to pull the majority along and then we're going to pull the trigger.

So it looks like more of a political document. I'm upset about it. But the biggest thing we ought to do is build a bridge back to a bipartisan compromise so we can go ahead with our work.

HANNITY: Senator, I've got to be honest. It seems that these people that wrote this did not learn a thing from 9/11. It doesn't matter, as you point out, what your interim report is going to say. They already have a plan. They are already going to attack it, and then they're going to launch an independent investigation, regardless of what the conclusion is here.

Now, the question is, first of all, do you believe Senator Rockefeller that this was a staffer? Do you believe that, especially when it says "we" and "our" plan? Do you buy into that?

And No. 2, will you launch an investigation and subpoena computers and documents to see the veracity of whether or not what he is saying is true?

ROBERTS: Well, we have already asked some questions in regards to the computers. And I'm satisfied our staff did not get into any of that. But the question of how this became public is not so much important that it exists. And...

HANNITY: But do you believe it's from a staffer or do you believe this goes much higher up? Because the reading of it, in my mind, clearly, this is not a staffer.

ROBERTS: I had a conversation with Senator Rockefeller. He's indicated in his statement that he instructed his staff to prepare the report. I'm not going to go any farther than that. When you have an opportunity to talk to Senator Rockefeller, I would encourage you to do that.

Senator Rockefeller is a man whom I respect. I've worked with. That's why this became such a shock to me as to why this would be so partisan.

HANNITY: Senator, we are at war. I cannot believe that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has so politicized things. This is what this document is about, attacking the president. Not looking for an honest answer to honest questions, but politicizing the war while the commander in chief is leading our men and women and putting them in harm's way. I can think of nothing more repugnant than what I read here in this memo.

And clearly, sir, we see a lot of what they outlined here, they have been involved in. And I want to know what are you going to do and what are the Republicans on this committee going to do?

ROBERTS: Well, tomorrow we're taking the floor at 9:30 to express, in some cases, some real outrage and some indignation. We are asking our colleagues across the aisle to completely disavow this report or this attack plan. Somehow build a bridge back to some kind of bipartisan coalition so we can get the answers to intelligence, exactly what you have described.

HANNITY: Good luck.

ROBERTS: I'm just as upset about this as you are, but it's my responsibility to try to work with my colleagues across the aisle to make the Intelligence Committee what it's supposed to be, and that's the oversight responsibility.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Good to have you here. Alan here.

By the way, we invited Senator Rockefeller and other Democrats and either they didn't respond or they declined our invitation.

I have trouble with this as a Democrat. But I want to ask you this. What level do you think did this? Do you think a Senator was behind this or do you think a low-level staffer was behind it?

ROBERTS: As I say, I had private conversations with Senator Rockefeller. I think you ought to address that to him.

COLMES: What do you suspect?

ROBERTS: I think his statement is such that he instructed staff to prepare the report. He points out in his statement, and here I am repeating his statement, that this was not shared with any member. And I take him at his word for that.

COLMES: Let me put on the screen something else that Senator Rockefeller said.

He said, "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."

Do you disagree with that?

ROBERTS: No. I don't disagree with that at all. But let us do our report and then judge the report.

This -- What this memo does, it's an attack plan. It says pull the majority along and collaborate until we can go no farther, and then pull the trigger on an independent commission. Replace what the intelligence committee is doing. We've already defeated that twice in the Senate.

And then it has other language in there that is, you know, personally insulting.

I think we've got to get past this draft memo and get on to the business, again, of doing our oversight responsibility, which we have to do in the interest of our national security.

COLMES: Senator Rockefeller that he thinks it was a low-level staffer, that it was something taken out of a wastebasket or broken into somebody's computer inappropriately. Does that seem like a plausible explanation of this?

ROBERTS: I don't find that very plausible.

COLMES: I'm sorry, sir?

ROBERTS: I don't find that very plausible.

COLMES: So you don't think Senator Rockefeller is being candid here about this?

ROBERTS: Well, I'm not saying he's not being candid. What I would like to have him say is that we disavow this draft and we have to build bridges back, do a bipartisan job on the intelligence committee. I don't know about any wastepaper basket. I mean, that's -- that's. You know, I don't...

COLMES: Are you saying you're not satisfied with his response and you don't think that he gave the appropriate response to this, one that you would have...?

ROBERTS: I have had private conversations with Senator Rockefeller. I respect him. He has been a good friend. He's been a good colleague. He and I have to work together to rebuild a bridge back to this oversight responsibility that we have.

I don't know of anybody in the Intelligence Committee that will work into that committee room and think there is a political buzz saw going on. And this has, also, all sorts of repercussions for intelligence agencies all throughout the world and certainly does a disservice in regards to the war against terrorism.

COLMES: Do you think, as Senator Rockefeller says, the committee should review the accuracy of prewar intelligence, the use and misuse of intelligence by the administration members? Isn't that important for us to know?

ROBERTS: I think it's very important for us to know, but we're not done with the initial report. And we have seen no findings that would indicate there's anything wrong in regards to what the policy maker does.

If we start in the Intelligence Committee starting to question the judgment of every policy maker with intelligence, which is always imprecise, you'll never have any policy maker making any decision.

HANNITY: We've got to -- Senator, clearly they're politicizing the war. I think we need an investigation before you can get to your bridge. But we appreciate you being with us. Thank you, Senator Roberts.

ROBERTS: I appreciate it very much. Thank you.

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