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]et’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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    Yes, and let’s start enforcing the War Powers Act and actually have Congress declare wars and not give the Executive Branch a carte blanch.

  2. DL says:

    Knowing the liberal mind -they may have found a gem of an excuse to never again go to war. Unless they own the white house of course – then missile tossing has merit in their suddenly selective eyes.

    The gem – the excuse, is that they were deceived by not demanding sufficient WMD proof, and by trusting in George, grave harm was brought to our nation.

    The next president to call for war with a large contingent of liberal politicians in office , will, I’m afraid, have to bring a flattened city to congress as evidence of that need , in order to overcome the rhetoric and propaganda that is the talent of the left.

    We need to push the cause of better intelligence – intelligence that was part and parcel a victim of the post Viet-Nam Democratic white flag, anti-defense mentality. The WMD intelligence fiasco needs to be laid at their feet. Go back to the Frank Church committee if need be, but fight the good fight.

    The other element that needs to be publically debated is the deadly danger of having leftist ideologues in State and Intelligence communities.

    There seems to be some merit to the claim that the CIA has helped take down George Bush, because he was cleaning house of Clinton appointees and resentment that he wasn’t going to let them control the decisions rightfully relegated to the commander-in-chief!

  3. anjin-san says:

    DL,

    You seem to forget the basic fact that only under Bush has America suffered a catastrophic terrorist attack on its soil. And unlike Bush, Clinton brought the WTC 93 masterminds to justice.

    Hell, blame the tooth fairy if it makes you feel better. But is seems clear you hold placing blame above a more secure America.

  4. Herb says:

    DL:

    You have some very good points, but the leftys here will have their usual negative words to rebutt you. Just look at them, thay have nothing positive to say anything, not now or ever have. I think DL that it best for you to consider these “Lefty, extremist liberals as what they are. You have one guy that always has a negative word to say, but has never served a single hour in the service of our country, but he’s an “Expert”, and there is another lefty that thinks he knows all about America and how Americans think, but, you will find that he knows jack s***. His thinking is that everyone should pay his way and the well to do should share their earnings with him. You know the type.

    Keep writing DL and continue making those good posts.

  5. Steven Plunk says:

    It amazes me that this story will not die.

    Now we have both the Democrats and the Republicans playing CYA. It’s like nobody knew what they were doing before the invasion.

    If memory serves I don’t recall many of these elected officials dragging their feet as the build up was underway. It’s only now, after memories have faded, that these baseless accusations about intelligence are being raised. Statements like Robert’s only serve to embolden the Dem hacks.

    The reasons for going to war were very clear at the time and if we had 20/20 hindsight for all policy decisions wouldn’t the world be a better place.

  6. Atm says:

    Hey, Anjin-san, the first WTC bombing occurred during Clinton’s term, and Oklahoma City bombing did as well.

    And Clinton never brought Yassin to justice, as he was sitting, you know, in Iraq as Saddam’s guest. And he didn’t get KSM who did contribute towards the first attack.

  7. anjin-san says:

    ATM,

    Having problems with reading comprehension?

    Oklahoma city was a terrorist action taken by Americans.

    WTC 93 was tragic, but certainly not catastrophic.

    I can use shorter words if it will help you.
    Clinton did put WTC 93 ringleaders behind bars.

    Where is bin laden, dude?

  8. LJD says:

    I thought that Clinton had the opportunity to pick up Bin Laden prior to 9/11, just didn’t do it?