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Time-Line of Efforts to Shut Down Cheney-Gate Investigation in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI)

Nov. 8, 2003 (EIRNS)—The following time-line was assembled by EIR intelligence staff.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Democratic Presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche told an international webcast audience: "If you want to get through to next year, to the next election, get rid of Cheney now! Tell that man to go!"

Thursday, October 23, 2003

At request of former CIA officers Larry Johnson and Jim Marcinkowski, SSCI held special, closed-door session on the Valerie Plame Wilson leak.

Friday, October 24, 2003

The Washington Post ran planted lead article, claiming that SSCI investigation on Iraq intelligence is "95% complete," that the SSCI is preparing a "blistering report" blaming the intelligence community, and the CIA in particular, for "overstating" the case on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and his alleged links to al-Qaeda terrorists. The chairman of the Committee, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), was quoted as saying that "the Executive was ill-served by the intelligence community" and its "sloppy" intelligence product.

By Friday afternoon, it was being reported that Vice President Dick Cheney himself had pressed Roberts to put the blame on the CIA. "A senior administration official, who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, said Roberts' CIA comments were issued with Cheney's encouragement," reported the Knight-Ridder news service. "The official said Cheney is trying to shift the blame for the lack of progress on Iraq, which is becoming an issue in next year's Presidential and Congressional elections, from the White House to the CIA."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, held a press conference to denounce Roberts for "saying the blame is with the intelligence community, and there will be no questions about the White House." Rockefeller said that the resolution that created the Senate Intelligence Committee "specifically gives us jurisdiction to look into the matter of use," and that the investigation must cover not only the collection and analysis of intelligence, but how it was used by policy-makers.

Rockefeller made it clear that he is prepared to utilize a special SSCI rule to conduct his own investigation of how top Administration officials such Bush, Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, used or exaggerated Iraq intelligence. "All I have to do is to get five signatures that we want to investigate a subject—the use of, for example, of intelligence, the shaping of intelligence, the manipulation of intelligence, or whatever," Rockefeller stated. "And there's no way that the Chairman can say that we cannot do that."

Prior to Rockefeller's press conference, a special briefing was conducted by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, featuring three retired CIA officials: Vincent Cannistraro, Larry Johnson, and Jim Marcinkowski. They highlighted the severe damage to U.S. national security resulting from the Wilson leak, and attacked the overall faking of intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

They also rebutted an Oct. 21 story in USA Today, which had reported that the Senate investigation "has found no evidence that the Bush administration pressured CIA analysts to tailor their intelligence to suit the White House's view on the threat posed by Iraq." They said that currently-serving CIA analysts were in fact under heavy pressure from Cheney and others to produce intelligence that supported the Administration's push for war against Iraq. The officers cited the repeated, and what they called "unprecedented," visits to Langley by Cheney and Libby. "This is the first time in 27 years I have ever heard of a Vice President sitting down with desk analysts," Cannistraro said, "and pushing them to find support for something he believes. That is pressure." They also disclosed that analysts interviewed by the SSCI had "minders" from their agency with them when they were interviewed by Roberts's SSCI staff.

Later in the day, Sen. Roberts backed off the statements attributed to him by the Washington Post, and said they had been "mischaracterized." The CIA also held an usual press confererence with four senior CIA officials speaking on background, refuting the claims of CIA failure made by Roberts.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Sen. Roberts, speaking in Kansas, said that Congress would have voted against the Iraq war authorization, if they knew at that time, what they know now.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Senators Rockefeller and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), also a member of the SSCI, appeared together on "Meet the Press." Both expressed anger at the Administration's failure to produce documents to the SSCI. Rockefeller indicated that the Committee would focus attention on the Pentagon units that provided intelligence outside of normal channels, to justify the war.

Monday, October 27, 2003

A senior retired CIA official told EIR that Rockefeller had broken with Roberts, over Roberts' efforts, under immense White House pressure, to stall and obstruct the investigation into the Wilson leak, and into the Pentagon's disinformation leading into the war. He said that Cheney is leading the effort to get Roberts to scapegoat the CIA and the intelligence community for the fake intelligence that stampeded the Congress into voting to give the President the authorization to go to war. He added that the Cheney crowd is desperate to prevent a serious investigation of the OSP in the Pentagon, and he believes that the DOD civilians were running illegal covert operations, financed by slush funds maintained by DOD Comptroller Dov Zakheim.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Sometime between Tuesday and Thursday, Sen. Roberts did a dramatic about-face, and co-signed letters with Sen. Rockefeller, which letters were sent to the National Security Council at the White House, the State Department, and the Defense Department, castigating those agencies for delaying the production of documents which the SSCI had been demanding for months, and giving them a deadline of noon on Friday, Oct. 31. The letter to Rumsfeld specifically named Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith; sources cited in news accounts said that the SSCI is looking into the Pentagon's OSP, and also Assistant Secretary of State John Bolton.

A Congressional source told the Los Angeles Times: "By co-signing these letters, Roberts has done what he spent the last two months saying he wouldn't — extending this into the White House."

Sunday, November 2, 2003

Senators Roberts and Rockefeller appeared on CNN's "Late Edition." Rockefeller insisted that the Administration would be forced to deliver all the requested records. He reported that, as of Friday, the State Department and CIA had complied, while both the NSC and the Pentagon had failed to meet the deadline. Sen. Roberts "apologized" to Rockefeller for not yet informing him that, late Friday afternoon, a very top White House official had called him to promise, in the "spirit of cooperation," that all the subpoenaed records would be turned over. Roberts said his staff received a similar call from the Pentagon. Rockefeller made it clear that he would reserve judgment on the level of cooperation until he had the material in hand.

Rockefeller repeated his earlier statements about the broad legislative mandate of the SSCI, and said specifically that he was interested in the intelligence leading up to President Bush's Oct. 7, 2002 speech in Cincinnati, where all references to the Niger yellowcake allegations were struck, in contrast to Bush's State of the Union message three months later, in which Bush cited the already-discredited charges about African uranium being sought by Saddam. Rockefeller said he intended to get to the bottom of this shift from "truth to un-truth."

Rockefeller also said that he and Roberts had agreed that there would be personal calls by them to senior Administration and Pentagon officials this week, if they have not complied with the Committee's demands.

Monday, November 3, 2003

The Washington Post reported that, in addition to the document requests, that Roberts and Rockefeller "have requested interviews with officials of the National Security Council and Cheney's office."

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

On Tuesday afternoon, Fox News commentator and talk-show host Sean Hannity reported that he had obtained a memorandum circulated among the Democratic staff on the SSCI, which, it was claimed, showed that Democrats intended to use classified information to drive President Bush from office in the 2004 elections. The leak memo was posted on Fox's website, and very quickly on many other websites.

Sen. Roberts quickly said that the memo "exposes politics in its most raw form," and that the memo "appears to be a road map for how the Democrats intend to politicize what should be a bipartisan, objective review of prewar intelligence."

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Republican Senators took to the Senate floor and press gallery to denounce the Democrats for "politicizing" the Iraq intelligence investigation.

Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ), the head of the Republican Policy Committee, said: "This strategy memo lays bare what we've started to see for some time: an orchestrated effort by Democrats at a time of war to improperly use an intelligence investigation as a weapon against President Bush."

Rockefeller said that Roberts is trying to shield the White House from scrutiny, and suggested that Republicans may have stolen the memo by breaking into a Committee computer. "I would suggest to my colleagues that there is reason for concern today, and it is not for the content of this draft staff memo," he stated. "It was an internal memo, a draft. At some point, the Committee and the Senate are going to have to explore the chain of events surrounding this draft memo, since it raises serious questions about whether the majority is obtaining unauthorized access to private internal materials of the minority."

Thursday, November 6, 2003

The Washington Times urged in its lead editorial that the White House should henceforth be extremely cautious about providing any classified information to the Intelligence Committee, "until the credibility and reliability of the committee can be re-established."

The New York Post editorial demanded that the Senate dump Jay Rockefeller from the Intelligence Committee, and conduct a thorough purge of the Committee staff.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, threatened to scrap the bi-partisan, power-sharing arrangements in the Intelligence Committee. (Under those rules, either Roberts or Rockefeller can chair a hearing, and the minority party can launch an investigation by obtaining five signatures out of the eight Democrats on the Committee.)

Friday, November 7, 2003

The Wall Street Journal editorial demanded that, until those responsible for the memo are fired, the SSCI should be "shut down, cleaned out and reconstituted later, preferably after the next election."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist did shut down the SSCI, cancelling all activities, including a meeting scheduled for Friday. No meetings are scheduled for next week. In a floor speech, Frist said the plan outlined in the leaked memo would "so politicize the Intelligence Committee as to render it incapable of meeting its responsibilities to the United States Senate and to the American people."

Pat Roberts stated: "Unless and until this reprehensible attack plan and strategy to derail the Committee's important work in properly addressed, I am afraid that it will be impossible to return to 'business as usual' in the Committee."

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