Despite a November pledge, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has not yet agreed on a plan to complete a second phase of its investigation into pre-war intelligence on Iraq’s prohibited weapons programs.
Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) publicly pledged in early 2005 to complete the investigation’s second phase, but Democrats have complained that the investigation is proceeding too slowly.
The investigation’s second phase concerns Bush administration officials’ role in gathering and using intelligence on Iraq. For example, the committee has begun to examine whether then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, working with other administration officials, obtained and analyzed intelligence outside normal channels. The panel has also been investigating whether administration officials’ pre-war statements regarding Iraq’s suspected weapons programs were supported by the available intelligence. (See ACT, December 2005.)
The committee issued a report in July 2004 after completing the investigation’s first phase, which analyzed the intelligence community’s performance in assessing Iraq’s suspected illicit weapon programs. (See ACT, September 2004.)
In an effort to accelerate the languishing investigation, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) forced debate on the matter in November by invoking a rarely used rule to halt Senate operations and bring the body into closed session. The two sides then formed a six-member, bipartisan task force to develop a plan for completing the investigation.
But according to a Dec. 13 letter from Reid and Assistant Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin ( Ill.) to the Senate Republican leadership, the task force “has not reached a bipartisan agreement on a timetable and schedule for completion.” Consequently, “critical questions remain about the committee’s progress on its investigation, its timeline for completing that investigation, and what remaining steps need to be taken to ensure a prompt, thorough, and complete review,” the letter added.
Later that day, Roberts stated that Reid’s characterization of the investigation is inaccurate, adding that Reid would be “pleasantly surprised” by the committee’s progress. Roberts, however, provided no specifics. The committee met Dec. 15 behind closed doors, but whether any progress was made is unclear.
Details of the dispute regarding the investigation are also unclear. But a Dec. 14 letter from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) indicated that it is “difficult to determine the endgame for the Phase II report” because the Department of Defense inspector general is currently investigating Feith’s intelligence activities.
Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman told reporters Dec. 2 that Roberts requested the Pentagon investigation because of persisting allegations that Feith had acted inappropriately. Roberts, who requested the investigation in September 2005, said that the committee had found no evidence of impropriety, Edelman added.Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in November that Roberts had assured Democrats that committee members will be able to look at “other aspects” of the Feith matter after receiving the Pentagon’s report.