Senate Republicans expressed outrage yesterday over a memo that plotted a Democratic strategy for taking maximum political advantage of an investigation into U.S. intelligence before the war in Iraq.
The memo, written by a staffer for Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat and co-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggested Democrats “pull the majority along as far as we can.”
The Democrats then should change tactics and call for an independent investigation next year, when President Bush will be running for re-election, the memo said.
Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the intelligence panel, said he was “stunned” when he read the memo, and called it a “purely partisan document that appears to be a road map for how the Democrats intend to politicize what should be a bipartisan, objective review of prewar intelligence.”
Mr. Rockefeller released a statement saying that he had not approved the memo,”nor was it shared with any member of the Senate Intelligence Committee or anyone else.”
“Having said that,” Mr. Rockefeller added, “the memo clearly reflects staff frustration with the conduct of the … investigation and the difficulties of obtaining information from the administration.”
Former chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee, from both parties, have often expressed pride about the panel’s nonpartisan approach to its oversight of sensitive national-security issues.
Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, said yesterday that the memo comes close to a treasonous act against the United States.
“If this is not treasonous, it’s the first cousin of treason,” Mr. Miller said. “This is one of those committees that you should never, ever have anything politicized because you’re dealing with the lives of our soldiers and our citizens.”
“Heads ought to roll,” he said.
How the memo was made public is still not clear. Conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity broke the story by reading the memo to his national radio audience on Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Rockefeller suggested that Republicans leaked the memo, saying it “was likely taken from a wastebasket or through unauthorized computer access.”
Sen. Jon Corzine, New Jersey Democrat, said too much was being made over “some concept memo that wasn’t seen by anybody else in the committee.”
“The whole discussion of this leaked memo … only reinforces my own view that we need an independent, bipartisan commission” to investigate the collection and use of intelligence before the war, Mr. Corzine said.