Senator Bill Frist is doing all he can to make certain the Senate Intelligence Committee doesn't do all it can to investigate alleged illegal intelligence activities of the Bush administration. Frist thinks that "oversight" and "threat assessment" have nothing to do with potential wrongdoing in the intelligence activities conducted by this administration. As Bush lapdog, there is nothing that this administration could do that would justify Frist supporting any investigation by the US Senate. He understands that the last thing Republicans need between now and November is an investigation of these potentially explosive issues. Of course, Frist's motivations have nothing to do with politics.
"I am increasingly concerned that the Senate Intelligence Committee is unable to carry out its critically important oversight and threat assessment responsibilities due to stifling partisanship that is exhibited through repeated calls by Democrats on the committee to conduct politically-motivated investigations," wrote Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in a March 3 letter to Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid. Language in Frist's letter clearly threatens to "restructure" the committee if it does not behave the way he believes it is supposed to behave.
Instead of looking into illegal intelligence activities, which one would think is a germane issue for this committee, Frist wants the committee to turn a blind eye and take up matters relating to the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran, the military buildup of China, and Islamic radicalism. And there is the familiar refrain from Republicans when they get into trouble: while the Democrats want to undertake "politically motivated" witch-hunts, the Republicans want to continue to defend this country from evil.
"I agree with Senator Frist," Senator Reid replied, "the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee has been bogged down by partisanship."
"When faced with strong evidence that the Bush Administration has misused intelligence..., time and again the Senate Intelligence Committee has ducked its responsibilities and refused to hold the Administration accountable. The recent record of the Republican-controlled committee is most notable for its abdication of authority and responsibility," Sen. Reid said.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to vote on March 7 (today) on a proposal by Senator Rockefeller to conduct an investigation of the NSA warrantless surveillance activity. After having felt the uncomfortable and uncompromising strong-arm of the White House, Republican Senators and members of the Committee, Olympia Snowe and Chuck Hagel, have vowed to vote with the Democrats to make sure the hearings happen. The open question then will be whether Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Committee, will find ways to work with Frist and other Republican leaders to delay and even effectively stop the hearings, or whether he will acquiesce to the will of the majority of the Committee and hold the hearings.
The ultimate question: Just how far will Frist and the White House go in trying to sabotage any hearings? If the Majority Leader decides to restructure the Committee, how long will that take and what consequences will that have for Senate "oversight" and "threat assessment."
[Thanks to Federation of American Scientists -- Secrecy News]