Senate: We’ll Review Intelligence Before Future Wars
The chair and co-chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace that, from now on, they will actually look at intelligence reports critically before agreeing to go to war.
Roberts: Iraq Will Affect Future War Votes (WaPo, A4)
The Republican chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said yesterday that one lesson of the faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq is that senators would take a hard look at intelligence before voting to go to war.
“I think a lot of us would really stop and think a moment before we would ever vote for war or to go and take military action,” Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We don’t accept this intelligence at face value anymore,” he added. “We get into preemptive oversight and do digging in regards to our hard targets.” He said that agreement has been reached on the Phase 2 review that the intelligence panel is doing to look into whether the Bush administration exaggerated or misused prewar intelligence. The review may not be finished this year, he said.
The intelligence panel vice chairman, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), also appearing on Fox, called the review “absolutely useful” because “if it is the fact that they [the Bush administration] created intelligence or shaped intelligence in order to bring American opinion along to support them in going to war, that’s a really bad thing — it should not ever be repeated.”
So, from now on, the Senate is going to do its job? What, pray tell, have they been doing on the intelligence committee until now? Its entire rationale for existence is to provide oversight:
Created pursuant to S.Res. 400, 94th Congress: to oversee and make continuing studies of the intelligence activities and programs of the United States Government, and to submit to the Senate appropriate proposals for legislation and report to the Senate concerning such intelligence activities and programs. In carrying out this purpose, the Select Committee on Intelligence shall make every effort to assure that the appropriate departments and agencies of the United States provide informed and timely intelligence necessary for the executive and legislative branches to make sound decisions affecting the security and vital interests of the Nation. It is further the purpose of this resolution to provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.
It should be noted that, if one looks at the show transcript, Roberts was a bit more nuanced than Pincus’ summary suggests:
I think what happened, if you read the Robb-Silverman report, that it was repetitive. It was a lot like the slam dunk statement by former CIA director George Tenet, who also believed, I’m sure, that there was an imminent threat. I think that again, you know, this administration looked at the available report by the entire community, as we did, and said it was a danger to our national security, and they went to war.
This was a worldwide intelligence failure. And as a result, I think everybody mistakenly believed in that product. If you can’t believe the national intelligence estimate of 2002 handed to the Congress, if, in fact, that’s not factual, that’s what we’re trying to do today.
We don’t accept this intelligence at face value anymore. We get into preemptive oversight and do digging in regards to our hard targets. That’s the difference between then and now.
Roberts’ comments convey a distrust in the intelligence bureaucracy’s consensus conclusions, not in the way those conclusions are passed on through the White House.
Update (1357): DC Loser comments, “[L]etÃ¢€™s start enforcing the War Powers Act and actually have Congress declare wars and not give the Executive Branch a carte blanch.” While I think the WPA is unconstitutional for technical reasons*, I otherwise agree for the same reasons Kevin Drum outlines.
*Albert Jenners provides a concise explantion of the technical issue at hand:
Section 1544(c) goes beyond the prior section and creates what is known as a legislative veto. It provides that, notwithstanding the previous section, if both houses of Congress, by concurrent resolution, direct that the troops should be removed, the President must do so. This resolution, unlike a normal law, is not subject to presidential veto. Congress has always had the power to impose its will on the President by using its spending power to enact a law to limit presidential action, but a spending law would be subject to presidential veto. Section 1544(c) declares that it is not subject to veto but (unlike a normal concurrent resolution) must be treated the same as a statute.
Section 1544(c) is known as a legislative veto because it gives Congress the right to veto presidential action. As such, scholars have concluded that it is unconstitutional ever since INS v. Chadha,29 a 1983 case that invalidated all legislative vetoes. While Professor John Hart Ely argues that section 1544(c) is constitutional, even Professor Laurence Tribe admits that this section is unconstitutional. The only question is whether the existence of this unconstitutional section infects the entire resolution, as some commentators have suggested.