- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2003

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Democrats have been “wholly inadequate” in explaining a memo laying out political strategies for using the nonpartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, and he called on Democrats yesterday to name the staffer who wrote it and have the person apologize.

“I believe that it is reasonable to expect that the author or authors and intended recipient or recipients of this memorandum to disavow this partisan attack in its entirety,” Mr. Frist said on the Senate floor in closing yesterday’s session.

“I will not permit the Intelligence Committee to be so misused for blatant partisan gain,” he said.

Mr. Frist said the staffer who wrote the memo must apologize to the committee chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican. Without those steps, Mr. Frist said, the committee “cannot function and will not serve its purpose.”

Unlike other committees, the intelligence panel is considered nonpartisan because it has no partisan staff and its rules allow the minority party to start an official investigation.

A memorandum written by a staffer for Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the committee, suggested Democrats use those special privileges to drive their own political agenda for attacking the administration.

“We have an important role to play in the revealing the misleading — if not flagrantly dishonest methods and motives — of the senior administration officials who made the case for a unilateral, preemptive war,” the memo writer said, adding that Democrats should “pull the trigger on an independent investigation” next year, when the president is running for re-election.

The Intelligence Committee is in the midst of an investigation into the intelligence data used by the administration to justify going to war against Iraq.

Mr. Roberts said the memo is a “direct assault on the heart of what makes the Intelligence Committee a unique, credible and respected entity.” He and other senators said one reason they get cooperation from the intelligence communities and their work is trusted is that the committee usually leaves partisanship at the door.

The memo was leaked to Fox News Channel earlier this week.

So far, though, Democratic leaders have not backed down, with Mr. Rockefeller having said the memo was an internal communication in his office that expresses how frustrated staffers are at the way the investigation is progressing.

Mr. Rockefeller’s office did not return a call for comment yesterday evening but Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, questioned how the memo came to light.

“This memo that has been talked about was somehow stolen from the offices of Senator Rockefeller and his people that work in the intelligence committee,” he said.

“The information that is spoken of in the Intelligence Committee, the memos, letters, and other information that is in the Intelligence Committee, has to remain secret,” he said. “That wasn’t done in this instance.”

He compared leaking the memo to the recent leak from the Bush administration that identified Valerie Plame, a CIA operative whose husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was part of an investigation that discredited administration claims Iraq tried to acquire uranium for nuclear weapons.

But Republicans see the memo as an opportunity to turn attention back to Democratic partisanship. Yesterday, in addition to Mr. Frist, Sen. John W. Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Intelligence Committee members Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Sen. Christopher S. Bond of Missouri were on the floor for Mr. Frist’s remarks.

One Republican aide said the furor over the memo has already hurt Democrats’ ability to use the CIA leak for political gain. The aide also said Democrats will now have a much harder time criticizing the final committee report on intelligence and Iraq when it is released, because those criticisms will now be seen in light of the memo.

Mr. Frist didn’t say what the punishment would be if Democrats don’t comply with his demands, but several sanctions have already been mentioned by other senators. One is to call for an ethics investigation, and another is to restructure the rules of the committee to take away the special rights the minority party has in the committee’s operation.

Mr. Frist said the memo might also force the committee to finish its work sooner than expected.

“In light of this partisan attack plan, Chairman Roberts and I have discussed the scope of unfinished work on the review,” he said. “It is our view that the committee’s review is nearly complete.”

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