SPECIAL REPORT

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS): Chairman of the Senate Cover-up Committee

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"Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS): Chairman of the Senate Cover-up Committee"

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    As chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Pat Roberts’s (R-KS) duty is “to provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States” and “to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.” But on the most important intelligence issues facing Americans – such as the manipulation of Iraq intelligence, warrantless domestic spying, and torture – Roberts has transformed his committee into a “Senate Coverup Committee” for the Bush administration.

    Warrantless Domestic Spying
    Iraq Intelligence
    Intelligence Leak Hypocrisy
    Torture
    What Editorial Boards Are Saying

    Warrantless Domestic Spying

    Roberts has made clear both his support for Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program and his contempt for those who question the program’s legality. On March 7, his committee once again abdicated its oversight responsibilities and “voted against an investigation of the president’s warrantless domestic spying program.” Roberts instead made a deal with the White House to “allow wiretapping without warrants for up to 45 days.” Ranking Member Jay Rockefeller called the move “proof that the White House controls the Intelligence Committee.”

    Roberts Believes In Virtually Unlimited Presidential Power. Tim Russert asked Roberts on Meet the Press, “Do you believe that the Constitution gives the president of the United States the authority to do anything he believes is necessary to protect the country?” “Yes,” Roberts replied, “but I wouldn’t say anything he believes.” “I think you go at it very, very carefully, and that’s been done by every president that I know of.” [Meet the Press, 2/12/06]

    Roberts Flip-Flopped, Then Flipped Again On Domestic Eavesdropping Legislation. First, Roberts said he had “worked out an agreement with the White House to change U.S. law regarding the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program and provide more information about it to Congress.” A few days later, Roberts seemed to buck the President and argued the program should be brought under the FISA court’s authority. But the next day, his staff director backtracked and said, “The senator remains open to a number of legislative and oversight options.” [Associated Press, 2/16/06; New York Times, 2/18/06; Associated Press, 2/18/06]

    Roberts Blocked Vote On Domestic Wiretapping Investigation. Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) requested a vote to begin an investigation into the domestic wiretapping program. Rather than allow a vote on Rockefeller’s proposal, Roberts instead held a vote “to adjourn a closed-door session without considering the investigation.” Reportedly, Roberts thought “he had the votes to defeat Rockefeller’s motion in the committee,” but after Sens. Snowe (R-ME) and Hagel (R-NE) “told the chairman that if he called up the motion, they would support it,” Roberts adjourned the meeting with a party-line vote. [Associated Press, 2/18/06; Washington Post, 2/20/06]

    Roberts ‘Wholeheartedly’ Supports Warrantless Domestic Wiretapping. “I support the terrorist surveillance program wholeheartedly and am comfortable in my belief that it is necessary, effective and lawful,” Roberts said. [Roberts Press Release, 2/16/06]

    Roberts Claimed Other Senators Believe Bush Is A Greater Threat Than Osama Bin Laden. “I am concerned that some of my Democrat colleagues used this unique public forum to make clear that they believe the gravest threat we face is not Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, but rather the president of the United States,” Roberts said. [Washington Post, 2/3/06]

    Roberts On The Constitution: ‘You Really Don’t Have Any Civil Liberties If You’re Dead.’ “I would only point out that you really don’t have any civil liberties if you’re dead,” Roberts said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2/3/06]

    Roberts Parroted Bush Administration’s Spying Arguments. Roberts set out in a 19-page memo to the Senate Judiciary Committee why he believes the NSA “is within the President’s inherent authorities, why the program is legal, necessary, and reasonable, and why Congress, through the congressional intelligence committees, has been kept ‘fully and currently informed’ as required by statute.” The memo focused on the “President’s inherent constitutional authority,” but it also did “not discount the legal arguments of the Department of Justice concerning the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) and its implicit authorization of this capability.” [Roberts Letter to Specter and Leahy, 2/3/06]

    Iraq Intelligence

    The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released Phase I of its Iraq prewar intelligence report on July 9, 2004. The report found numerous failures in the intelligence-gathering and analysis process in the lead-up to the Iraq war. Roberts politicized the report by attacking Ambassador Joseph Wilson and by falsely asserting the report absolved the White House from charges of misusing prewar intelligence. After months of stonewalling, Nov. 14, 2005, was the negotiated deadline for the Senate Intelligence Committee to report on Phase II of its investigation into the administration’s use of prewar intelligence. More than three months later, the public still has not received a report. Roberts has impeded progress on the report and reneged on his pledge to complete Phase II. Below is a chronological breakdown of Roberts’s efforts to squash the report:

    Roberts Politicized Phase I Report By Criticizing Joseph Wilson. In the additional views to the intelligence report, Roberts joined Sens. Kit Bond (R-MO) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to veer away from a meaningful investigation into prewar intelligence, and instead devoting over two pages to criticism of Joe Wilson. They concluded, “The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador’s wife, a CIA employee.” “Rather than speaking publicly about his actual experiences during his inquiry of the Niger issue”¦the former ambassador seems to have included information he learned from press accounts.” [Additional Views of Roberts, Bond, and Hatch]

    Roberts Attempted To Absolve White House From Prewar Intelligence Blame In Phase I Report. Roberts defended Tenet and the President on Meet the Press: “Well, we have a situation where the DCI, George Tenet – and it’s very easy to go back and pick out a certain statement. Of course, his most famous one is ‘slam dunk.’ There isn’t any slam dunk in intelligence. You don’t bat, you know, 1,000 percent. I mean, you’re lucky if you bat, you know, 500 percent. The information that was provided to the president and to the Congress that led to the same kind of assertive comments that the same critics are now blaming the president for was flawed. What he said is what he got, and what he got was wrong, and I think he was right to challenge it at the time.” [Meet the Press, 7/11/04]

    July 2004: Roberts Called Phase II A ‘Priority.’ “It is a priority. I made my commitment and it will get done.” [UPI, 7/9/04]

    Roberts Claimed Phase II Was ‘Ongoing,’ But Would Not Be Released Before Election. Roberts said that Phase II was “ongoing right now,” but it would be impossible to finish the report before the November election. “I don’t know if we can get it done before the election,” Roberts said. “It is more important to get it right. Understand, too, that it is going to an independent commission after we get our work done. So we haven’t heard the end of this by any means.” [Meet the Press, 7/11/04]

    March 2005: Roberts Said Phase II Too Difficult, Placed On ‘Back-Burner.’ “[Phase II] got to be a problem in regard to a subjective point of view. If you ask any member of the administration, ‘Why did you make that declarative statement?’ … basically, the bottom line is, they believed the intelligence and the intelligence was wrong. In addition, we were in an even-numbered year and you know what that means. So”¦we sort of came to a crossroads and that is basically on the back burner.” [UPI, 3/10/05]

    Roberts Called Phase II ‘A Monumental Waste Of Time.’ Roberts blew off the second phase of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Iraq prewar intelligence, claiming the Silberman-Robb Commission covered the same ground as Phase II: “I don’t think there should be any doubt that we have now heard it all regarding prewar intelligence. I think that it would be a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further.” But the Silberman-Robb Commission never investigated Phase II’s main charge – how policymakers used prewar intelligence. [U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 3/31/05; Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, Report to the President, 3/31/05]

    Roberts Refused To Conduct Phase II After Election. “To go though that exercise, it seems to me, in a post-election environment – we didn’t see how we could do that and achieve any possible progress. I think everybody pretty well gets it.” [U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 3/31/05]

    April 2005: Roberts Continued to Stall Phase II, Said Other Matters Were More Important. “I’m perfectly willing to do it, and that’s what we agreed to do, and that door is still open. And I don’t want to quarrel with Jay, because we both agreed that we would get it done. But we do have–we have Ambassador Negroponte next week, we have General Mike Hayden next week. We have other hot-spot hearings or other things going on that are very important.” [Meet the Press, 4/10/05]

    Roberts Promised To Make Phase II Public. “Tim, we’re going to do that. I will bring [Phase II] here.” [Meet the Press, 4/10/05]

    July 2005: Roberts Backed Out Of Pledge To Make Phase II Public. “When the Committee has completed its work on phase II, we will determine the form in which the Committee will express its findings and whether it will be possible or prudent to release them publicly.” [Letter, 7/20/05]

    November 2005: Reid Forced Senate Into Closed-Door Session. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) forced the Senate into a rare closed-door session, threatening to delay legislative action until the Intelligence Committee followed through on its planned investigation of prewar Iraq intelligence failures. Reid said the leadership in Congress had “repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why.” [CNN, 11/1/05]

    Roberts Backtracked Again, Claimed Phase II ‘Ongoing.’ “Well, there’s been a lot of talk about Phase II. What is Phase II? Why has it been delayed, if in fact it has been delayed? “¦ It isn’t like it’s been delayed. As a matter of fact, it’s been ongoing. As a matter of fact, we have been doing our work on Phase II.” [Senate Floor Speech, 11/1/05]

    Roberts Dismissed Need To Examine Administration’s Use Of Prewar Intelligence. “There’s a part of me that says if you look in the rearview mirror, there’s a little crack in regards to partisan lines, and figure out what somebody said two or three years ago, and was it justified by intelligence. I don’t know the relevancy of that.” [CNN, 11/1/05]

    Roberts Promised To Finish Phase II. “We have several working drafts that we will get to members as of this week that we have been working on for a considerable amount of time. We’ve been working on that. We will finish it. We had it scheduled for this week. There was no need for the Senate to all of a sudden pop in to an executive session or a closed session and then demand action when we were going to do it anyway.” [Face the Nation, 11/6/05]

    Roberts Offered Excuses For The Administration. Roberts agreed that there “may be a concern to some extent” about the White House’s claim that Congress saw the same intelligence as the administration in the run-up to the war. But he offered caveats for the White House, claiming “we had the same information on the aluminum tubes at the time we went to war as the time that we took another look and said, whoa, wait a minute, this isn’t adding up.” Roberts was wrong. The New York Times explained that of the 15 tube assessments sent to Congress, “not one of them” informed readers that experts within the Energy Department believed the tubes could not be used to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program. [Fox News, 11/13/05; New York Times, 10/3/04]

    Roberts Failed To Conduct A Thorough Phase II Investigation. In a Nov. 2005 letter to Sens. Bill Frist (R-TN) and Harry Reid (D-NV), three members of the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote that Roberts refused to pursue “additional interviews and documents” needed to fully answer the “critical questions surrounding the use of intelligence in the months leading up to the war.” [11/14/05]

    Roberts Missed Deadline for ‘Statements’ Portion of Phase II Report. Roberts promised to complete a draft “statements” section of the Phase II investigation into manipulated pre-war intelligence by April 5. But the American Prospect blog reported in late April: “You’ll no doubt be surprised to hear this, but guess what: It didn’t happen. Wendy Morigi, a spokesperson for Senator Jay Rockefeller, the committee’s ranking Democrat, acknowledged”¦that committee members hadn’t yet received the draft.” [Roberts Press Release, 3/14/06; American Prospect blog, 4/27/06]

    April 2006: Roberts Sought to Further Divide and Delay Inquiry. The Hill reported that Roberts wanted “to divide his panel’s inquiry into the Bush administration’s handling of Iraq-related intelligence into two parts, a move that would push off its most politically controversial elements to a later time. “¦ Left unfinished would be a report on whether public statements and testimony about Iraq by senior U.S. government officials were substantiated by available intelligence information.” [The Hill, 4/25/06]

    Phase II Report Delayed Until After 2006 Midterm Elections. CQ reported: “A Senate panel investigation into the use of intelligence leading up the the Iraq war remains in limbo after almost three years of politically charged clashes over the content and conclusions of the inquiry.” Roberts “set still more deadlines”¦ for finalizing some of the work despite those differences.” Under the new deadlines, the report will have “virtually no chance of being completed before the fall elections.” [CQ, 7/11/06]

    Intelligence Leak Hypocrisy

    Roberts Said He Supports Stricter Leak Laws. The Washington Post reported Roberts “may add language to the fiscal 2007 intelligence authorization bill to criminalize the leaking of a wider range of classified information than is now covered by law.” “Whether it’s a reporter or just any individual or somebody by the water cooler who’s upset or somebody who has just a very strong difference of opinion knowingly reveals classified information,” Roberts said, “that would be a felony.” [Washington Post, 2/17/06]

    Roberts Let Sen. Shelby Off the Hook For Leaking Classified Information. The Washington Post reported in 2004, “Federal investigators concluded that Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) divulged classified intercepted messages to the media when he was on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.” Shelby was accused of leaking “how the National Security Agency handled messages before the Sept. 11 attacks” to Fox News and CNN reporters. The Justice Department decided not to prosecute Shelby, and referred the case to the Senate Ethics Committee. By June 2005, the pace of the Ethics Committee’s investigation was “slowed by difficulties obtaining information, difficulties created partly by Sen. Pat Roberts’s (R-Kan.) decision not to recuse himself from the case.” Ultimately, the Ethics Committee dropped the investigation. [Washington Post, 8/5/04; New York Times, 11/14/05; The Hill, 7/28/05; New York Times, 11/14/05]

    Roberts Reneged On Promise To Hold Hearings On Plame Leak. Roberts claimed last summer that he would hold hearings on the Plame leak. “We intend to have a hearing,” Roberts said, “And I think it would be a good idea to visit with her.” Within a few days, Roberts backed away from his promise. The Wichita Eagle reported Roberts did not investigate the leak because he believed “Rove’s role in revealing the identity of CIA agent Plame is already under investigation and that his critics are playing politics.” Roberts said he would not investigate because the “Senate Intelligence has to be nonpartisan.” [Time, 7/26/05; Wichita Eagle, 7/28/05]

    Roberts Falsely Claimed Plame Was Not Covert. On CNN Late Edition, Roberts said about Valerie Plame, “And I must say from a common sense standpoint, driving back and forth to work to the CIA headquarters, I don’t know if that really qualifies as being, you know, covert.” Recently released documents from the Libby investigation found Plame did “covert work overseas” and “was making specific efforts to conceal” her identity. [CNN, 7/24/05; Newsweek, 2/13/06]

    Roberts Leak ‘Impaired’ Hunt For Saddam. National Reporter Murray Waas reported that Roberts “was involved in disclosing sensitive intelligence information [in 2003] that, according to four former senior intelligence officers, impaired efforts to capture Saddam Hussein and potentially threatened the lives of Iraqis who were spying for the United States.” The incident showed “how rank and file intelligence professionals now have much to fear from legitimate and even inadvertent contacts with journalists, while senior executive branch officials and members of Congress are almost never held accountable when they seriously breach national security through leaks of information.” [National Journal, 4/25/06]

    Torture

    Roberts Opposed McCain Torture Amendment. Roberts was one of nine Senators to vote against Sen. John McCain’s amendment banning the “cruel, inhuman” treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody. Roberts defended his vote, saying on Face the Nation, “You’re only successful with detention and interrogation when the detainee has a fear of the unknown, doesn’t know what’s going to happen.” He also called the amendment a “public vote of no confidence in our servicemen and women.” [Senate Roll Call Vote 249, 10/5/05; CBS Face the Nation, 11/6/05; Wichita Eagle editorial, 10/8/05]

    Roberts Defended Guantanamo Bay Prison. Roberts has repeatedly made light of the conditions at Guantanamo Bay. “There are more senators and congressmen with ethics cases pending than there are problems with interrogation right now in Gitmo,” he said. In June of last year, Roberts argued only “minor incidents” of abuse had ever happened at the prison. “I saw them playing soccer,” he said. “All of the interrogation is positive.” The Red Cross had this to say about the prison: “The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture.” [Washington Post, 11/9/05; New York Times, 11/30/04]

    Roberts Failed To Investigate CIA’s Complicity In Torture of Detainees.
    “Declaring that the CIA is ‘not torturing detainees,’ the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday that he saw no reason for the panel to investigate allegations that the agency abused prisoners or transferred them to countries that engage in torture.” [LA Times, 3/11/05]

    What Editorial Boards Are Saying

    Los Angeles Times: Roberts Chairs ‘Senate Coverup Committee.’ “That the United States Senate has a body called the Intelligence Committee is an irony George Orwell would have truly appreciated. In a world without Doublespeak, the panel, chaired by GOP Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, would be known by a more appropriate name “” the Senate Coverup Committee. Although the committee is officially charged with overseeing the nation’s intelligence-gathering operations, its real function in recent years has been to prevent the public from getting hold of any meaningful information about the Bush administration. Hence its never-ending delays of the probe into the bogus weapons intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq. And its squelching, on Thursday, of an expected investigation into the administration’s warrantless spying program.” [Los Angeles Times, 2/19/06]

    New York Times: Roberts ‘Willing To Excuse And Help To Cover Up’ Bush’s Intelligence Record. “Is there any aspect of President Bush’s miserable record on intelligence that Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not willing to excuse and help to cover up?” [New York Times, 2/17/06]

    Wichita Eagle: Roberts ‘Gaining The Reputation’ As ‘A Reliable Partisan Apologist For The Bush Administration.’ “[I]t’s troubling that Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is fast gaining the reputation in Washington, D.C., as a reliable partisan apologist for the Bush administration on intelligence and security controversies. We hope that’s not true. But Roberts’ credibility is on the line. ["¦] What’s bothering many, though, is that Roberts seems prepared to write the Bush team a series of blank checks to conduct the war on terror, even to the point of ignoring policy mistakes and possible violations of law. That’s not oversight — it’s looking the other way.” [Wichita Eagle, 2/18/06]

    Boston Globe: Roberts ‘Intends To Retreat’ On Phase II Promise. “Nor has the Republican-led Congress been much better about oversight and accountability. Yes, the Senate Intelligence Committee did issue an initial report on prewar intelligence failures. The preelection agreement, however, was that after the election the committee would turn its attention to the way senior policy makers used that intelligence in the run-up to the war. It has since become blindingly apparent that Senator Pat Roberts, the committee chairman, intends to retreat on that commitment. In a July 20 letter to US Senator John Kerry, the Kansas Republican made it clear that he doesn’t see that as an important priority, and that even if his committee completes phase II, the results may not be made public.” [Boston Globe, 9/13/05]

    Cleveland Plain Dealer: ‘Roberts’ Stalls Do No Service To The American People.’ “Roberts’ stalls do no service to the American people, who rightly suspect a cover-up when they’re repeatedly denied the ability to learn how things went so badly wrong with U.S. intelligence on Iraq.” [Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/3/05]