Reid Takes Senate Into Closed Session on Iraq Intelligence

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid took the senate into closed session today over intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. Raw Story reports this has happened only 53 times in Senate history, with the last time being during the Clinton impeachment hearings.

Here's a large portion of Sen. Reid's statement (received by e-mail.)

This past weekend, we witnessed the indictment of the I. Lewis Libby, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff and a senior Advisor to President Bush. Libby is the first sitting White House staffer to be indicted in 135 years. This indictment raises very serious charges. It asserts this Administration engaged in actions that both harmed our national security and are morally repugnant.

The decision to place U.S. soldiers in harm’s way is the most significant responsibility the Constitution invests in the Congress. The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really about: how the Administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions.

As a result of its improper conduct, a cloud now hangs over this Administration. This cloud is further darkened by the Administration’s mistakes in prisoner abuse scandal, Hurricane Katrina, and the cronyism and corruption in numerous agencies.

And, unfortunately, it must be said that a cloud also hangs over this Republican-controlled Congress for its unwillingness to hold this Republican Administration accountable for its misdeeds on all of these issues.

Let’s take a look back at how we got here with respect to Iraq Mr. President. The record will show that within hours of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, senior officials in this Administration recognized these attacks could be used as a pretext to invade Iraq.

The record will also show that in the months and years after 9/11, the Administration engaged in a pattern of manipulation of the facts and retribution against anyone who got in its way as it made the case for attacking Iraq.

There are numerous examples of how the Administration misstated and manipulated the facts as it made the case for war. Administration statements on Saddam’s alleged nuclear weapons capabilities and ties with Al Qaeda represent the best examples of how it consistently and repeatedly manipulated the facts.

The American people were warned time and again by the President, the Vice President, and the current Secretary of State about Saddam’s nuclear weapons capabilities. The Vice President said Iraq “has reconstituted its nuclear weapons.” Playing upon the fears of Americans after September 11, these officials and others raised the specter that, left unchecked, Saddam could soon attack America with nuclear weapons.

Obviously we know now their nuclear claims were wholly inaccurate. But more troubling is the fact that a lot of intelligence experts were telling the Administration then that its claims about Saddam’s nuclear capabilities were false.
The situation was very similar with respect to Saddam’s links to Al Qaeda. The Vice President told the American people, “We know he’s out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know he has a longstanding relationship with various terrorist groups including the Al Qaeda organization.”

The Administration’s assertions on this score have been totally discredited. But again, the Administration went ahead with these assertions in spite of the fact that the government’s top experts did not agree with these claims.

What has been the response of this Republican-controlled Congress to the Administration’s manipulation of intelligence that led to this protracted war in Iraq? Basically nothing.

....There is also another disturbing pattern here, namely about how the Administration responded to those who challenged its assertions. Time and again this Administration has actively sought to attack and undercut those who dared to raise questions about its preferred course.

For example, when General Shinseki indicated several hundred thousand troops would be needed in Iraq, his military career came to an end. When then OMB Director Larry Lindsay suggested the cost of this war would approach $200 billion, his career in the Administration came to an end. When U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix challenged conclusions about Saddam’s WMD capabilities, the Administration pulled out his inspectors. When Nobel Prize winner and IAEA head Mohammed el-Baridei raised questions about the Administration’s claims of Saddam’s nuclear capabilities, the Administration attempted to remove him from his post. When Joe Wilson stated that there was no attempt by Saddam to acquire uranium from Niger, the Administration launched a vicious and coordinated campaign to demean and discredit him, going so far as to expose the fact that his wife worked as a CIA agent.

Given this Administration’s pattern of squashing those who challenge its misstatements, what has been the response of this Republican-controlled Congress? Again, absolutely nothing. And with their inactions, they provide political cover for this Administration at the same time they keep the truth from our troops who continue to make large sacrifices in Iraq.

This behavior is unacceptable. The toll in Iraq is as staggering as it is solemn. More than 2,000 Americans have lost their lives. Over 90 Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice this month alone – the fourth deadliest month since the war began. More than 15,000 have been wounded. More than 150,000 remain in harm’s way. Enormous sacrifices have been and continue to be made.

The troops and the American people have a right to expect answers and accountability worthy of that sacrifice. For example, 40 Senate Democrats wrote a substantive and detailed letter to the President asking four basic questions about the Administration’s Iraq policy and received a four sentence answer in response. These Senators and the American people deserve better.

They also deserve a searching and comprehensive investigation about how the Bush Administration brought this country to war. Key questions that need to be answered include:

o How did the Bush Administration assemble its case for war against Iraq?
o Who did Bush Administration officials listen to and who did they ignore?
o How did senior Administration officials manipulate or manufacture intelligence presented to the Congress and the American people?
o What was the role of the White House Iraq Group or WHIG, a group of senior White House officials tasked with marketing the war and taking down its critics?
o How did the Administration coordinate its efforts to attack individuals who dared to challenge the Administration’s assertions?
o Why has the Administration failed to provide Congress with the documents that will shed light on their misconduct and misstatements?

Unfortunately the Senate committee that should be taking the lead in providing these answers is not. Despite the fact that the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee publicly committed to examine many of these questions more than 1 and ½ years ago, he has chosen not to keep this commitment. Despite the fact that he restated that commitment earlier this year on national television, he has still done nothing.

At this point, we can only conclude he will continue to put politics ahead of our national security. If he does anything at this point, I suspect he will play political games by producing an analysis that fails to answer any of these important questions. Instead, if history is any guide, this analysis will attempt to disperse and deflect blame away from the Administration.

We demand that the Intelligence Committee and other committees in this body with jurisdiction over these matters carry out a full and complete investigation immediately as called for by Democrats in the committee’s annual intelligence authorization report. Our troops and the American people have sacrificed too much. It is time this Republican-controlled Congress put the interests of the American people ahead of their own political interests.

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    This is why Harry Reid forced the Senate into a closed session. Republican Chairman Pat Roberts on the Phase 2 Report on possible Bush White House manipulation of Iraq WMD intelligence: - "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." (March 31, 2005) - "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." (March 31, 2005) - "[Phase 2] is basically on the back burner." (March 10, 2005) Full story here

    Well, this should be interesting.

    Re: Reid Takes Senate Into Closed Session on Iraq (none / 0) (#3)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:38 PM EST
    Jeralyn, the other day in your appearance on Reliable Sources, you made some very lucid and persistent arguments about the fact and reasons that the MSM has been so quiet about the justifications and manipulations the Bush League has used to sell the Iraq invasion, and Kurtz, it seemed to me at least, was rather dismissive of what you had to say. It will be hard to imagine that that dismissiveness by the MSM generally can continue, after Sen. Reid's statement, and the simple fact of this closed session.

    Re: Reid Takes Senate Into Closed Session on Iraq (none / 0) (#4)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:38 PM EST
    It also might be hard for the MSM to dismiss the AFL-CIO.

    Cynical J Pierpont Flathead suggests this is a way for Skull and Bones Democrats in the Senate to be able to grant immunity to Libby, Rove, et. al., thus repaying a poker bet made 25 years ago over the stolen sarcophagus of Tutankhamen during his first trip to the United States. More seriously, I am worried that Rethugs will hijack any investigation now to grant immunity to bad guys, their bad guys.

    Is Fitzgerald a Democrat? He'd get my vote! We need to kick MSM in the butt and arguably some democrats. When the time comes we'd better have something to offer.

    No! Not "the I. Lewis Libby"! Harry needs to take a valium and hire a proofreader.

    Re: Reid Takes Senate Into Closed Session on Iraq (none / 0) (#8)
    by theologicus on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:38 PM EST
    This is a powerful statement. The only thing missing is some acknowledgement of how the Democrats have so totally capitulated to the "Republican-controlled Congress." Can we really hope that Reid is signaling a new beginning?

    Thank you, Harry Reid...for being the a true Democrat!!! I smell a good old fashion cover-up brewing in the White House..President Bush is talking about everything else, but the Iraq War on Terror...I wonder why?

    Re: Reid Takes Senate Into Closed Session on Iraq (none / 0) (#10)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:38 PM EST
    charley has it right. If you want the public to know, you have public hearings. All this is a publicity stunt, and it is just going to anger the middle of the roaders. And Reid should get his facts straight. The indictments of Libby have nothing to do with the war. Even the SP said that. In fact, they have nothing to do with Mrs. Wilson, they are supposed crimes against the "Grand Jury." In addition, the Demos keep forgetting that the tumes, they are a changing. CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS and NPR no longer have a monopoly. I probably have used the term "moonbat" less than 20 times in almost three years, but it truly applies here. Reid's actions are moonbatiest at its very best. I am LOL. Can any Demo actually play this game? (A tip of my hat to Casey and the Mets for that last comment.)

    Re: Reid Takes Senate Into Closed Session on Iraq (none / 0) (#11)
    by Sailor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:38 PM EST
    Gee, harry forced the repubs to agree to actually start the hearings they promised to. Does anyone think that holding hearings on the reasons the admin stated for starting this war is a bad thing?

    Re: Reid Takes Senate Into Closed Session on Iraq (none / 0) (#12)
    by glanton on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:38 PM EST
    Start a war abroad roll back liberties at home consolidate power but no need for hearings either public or private since what will it accomplish? Life on a local level is my new motto. Be good to those you love and let them be your country. Country in a larger sense is gone when 'freedom' means freedom to discriminate and impose narrow doctrine. The rednecks who murdered Matthew Shepard typify the new American freedom and this is what we ask our soldiers to die for?

    Re: Reid Takes Senate Into Closed Session on Iraq (none / 0) (#13)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:39 PM EST
    sailor - Well, we had some hearings by the Senate on Mr. and Mrs. Wilsons juant to Niger. Did you like those results? Seems like you claim they are just politics. BTW - I don't think any hearings were started.

    Re: Reid Takes Senate Into Closed Session on Iraq (none / 0) (#14)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:42 PM EST
    If you want the public to know, you have public hearings. All this is a publicity stunt, and it is just going to anger the middle of the roaders. A publicity stunt? Something like these stunts?
    Which party likes to hold open five-minute votes indefinitely until the get the results they want? Which party prevents the minority from offering amendments [...] to legislation? Which party forbids the minority from participating in conference committees? Which party shuts down committee hearings went they start to become politically inconvenient? Which party decided that the Senate leader of one party could campaign against the Senate leader of the other party for the first time in American political history? Republicans want to lecture Dems about decorum and polite floor tactics? Are they kidding?