Saturday, February 07, 2004

"Independent" Commission on Intelligence

Today President Bush announced the formation of an "independent" commission to investigate certain issues related to intelligence. The Commission has already drawn criticism, including this statement Already there is criticism from some Democrats, including this statement from House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi (the AP has this story).

At first, I did not undertand the criticism because the make-up of the panel brings in several very qualified and open-minded individuals, including Senator McCain, former Senator Robb, and Judge Silberman of the D.C. Circuit. But then I read the executive order.

There are two glaring deficiencies. First, the Commission is empowered to assess the capabilities of the current American intelligence community and to evaluate the intelligence concerning the war on Iraq as it compares to the findings of the Iraqi Survey Group and other "relevant agencies or organizations," but it does not compare that intelligence to the administration's claims. Surely it is necessary to understand where the intelligence community may have been (and continues to be) deficient in assessing the credible threats against America and its allies, but that is only half the story.

Second, the Commission is established within the Executive Office of the President; it is "established for the purpose of advising the President;" it is ordered to report to the President; and it "shall solely advise and assist the President." How, then, can anyone reasonably claim that the Commission is "independent" of the President? The Commission does not evaluate the President's call to war and besides, the President has no obligation to share the contents of the report with Congress or the people. I am little relieved to know that the President will learn that the intelligence simply failed to keep pace with his rhetoric--I could tell him that much.

The Commission may serve some useful purpose, but it quite simply fails to meet my needs. I want to know what role the administration played in accumulating the intelligence, and I want to know who was responsible for vetting this information before it was sold to the public as fact. I want to know when President Bush decided it was in the public interest to invade Iraq, and why. I want to know why the entire world was instructed that it could not wait until the United Nations completed its investigation before invading Iraq. And I want to know why the Administration thought that delay could result in a mushroom cloud.

Congress should not allow the President to escape serious scrutiny. The people should not allow it either.

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