Senate Intel Committee Reverses, Nobody Notices

By David Swanson

When Republican Senator Pat Roberts chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee, he refused to conduct an investigation into how Bush and Cheney misled the Congress about the case for invading Iraq. The investigation, part of what was known as Phase II, had been agreed to, but Roberts refused to do it prior to the November 2004 elections on the grounds that it could impact the elections. After the elections he refused to do it on the grounds that it didn’t matter, what with the elections already being over.

The ranking Democrat on the committee raised hell for years. Senator Jay Rockefeller used every parliamentary and PR trick available to a ranking member, but was unable to force an investigation. In November of 2005, the minority Democrats forced the Senate into a closed door session in an attempt to pressure Roberts to do the investigation. Rockefeller was still talking about this failed attempt in January of this year.

The elections of 2006 were supposed to change everything. Rockefeller became the chairman of the committee. He could now immediately begin any investigation he chose to. In fact, in January of this year he gave an interview to McClatchy newspapers that suggested he was chomping at the bit.

The new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on the other hand, Silvestre Reyes, announced that he would not investigate anything, he would leave it all to Rockefeller. Rockefeller’s pre-2007 theatrics notwithstanding, it was the House that had come closest to pursuing serious investigations prior to the 2006 elections. Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Dennis Kucinich had sponsored resolutions of inquiry that came very close to passing in the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman John Conyers sponsored a bill to create a preliminary impeachment investigation. But with the arrival of 2007, all of those demands for truth and justice vanished. It was no longer appropriate etiquette for Democrats to propose investigations when Democrats were chairing the committees. All that remained was the seeming certainty that Senator Rockefeller would now conduct the investigation he’d been longing to see done for years.

In January, Rockefeller told McClatchy that it was Vice President Dick Cheney who had compelled Roberts to stonewall the investigation. Rockefeller told McClatchy that it was important to complete the Phase II inquiry. “The looking backward creates tension,” he said, “but it’s necessary tension because the administration needs to be held accountable and the country … needs to know.”

Nine months later, Rockefeller has not conducted the investigation or released a report. On Wednesday, in fact, the Senate unanimously passed an intelligence bill after the Democrats agreed to delete a demand to obtain the archive of daily intelligence briefings given to the president on Iraq between 1997 and 2003. I did not say narrowly passed. I said UNANIMOUSLY.

Now, I will take a back seat to nobody in demanding that children receive health care, but Senator Rockefeller has been spending his time pushing a bill guaranteed to be vetoed and then lamenting the veto. He could have been fighting to keep the teeth in the intelligence bill. He could have been issuing subpoenas. He has yet to issue a single subpoena. He could, for that matter, have simply assigned his staff to write a careful report on the White House war lies based on what is already in the public record. The case is overwhelming. The Senate’s official stamp would put that fact on people’s televisions and in their newspapers. The case for impeachment would be irresistible.

Why would Rockefeller refrain from even reporting on what he already knows? Perhaps I’ve answered that question already. The Democrats want to avoid impeachment at all costs. But they must have known last year, and the year before, and the year before that, that lying a nation into war is an impeachable offense. This was widely discussed in the 1780s. It’s hardly news.

It’s almost as if all Rockefeller’s talk prior to the 2006 elections about wanting to uncover the facts had more to do with the elections than any actual interest in accountability. It’s almost as if the Senator assumes we’ve all forgotten. Maybe we have. Has a single reporter asked him where in the world, these nine months later, Phase II is, or why in the world it has been phased out?