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Memo widens rift over senate inquiry { November 5 2003 }

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Memo Widens Rift Over Senate Iraq Inquiry
Wednesday November 5, 2003 10:46 PM


Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The leak of a Democratic strategy memo has deepened the partisan rift over a Senate inquiry into prewar intelligence on Iraq, with Republicans accusing Democrats on Wednesday of seeking to undermine the investigation for political gain.

Democrats say the memo was unauthorized and they sought to minimize its importance. But they also said it reflects their frustration over Republicans' refusal to examine whether the Bush administration distorted the intelligence.

As a result, the traditionally nonpartisan Senate Intelligence Committee is increasingly divided over an issue with potentially large implications for the 2004 presidential election: whether President Bush's decision to go to war over Iraq's weapons programs and ties to terrorism was based on sound intelligence.

The latest dispute was over a leaked memo that Democrats said was written by one of their staffers, but not circulated among members or approved by the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

The memo laid out plans for highlighting contradictions between the intelligence and statements by administration officials. It suggested approaches for beginning a separate Democratic investigation or renewing calls for an independent probe.

Among its recommendations were ``pull the majority along as far as we can on issues that may lead to major new disclosures'' and that Democrats ``can pull the trigger on an independent investigation'' after exhausting the opportunity to usefully collaborate with Republicans.

On the Senate floor, at a news conference and in press releases, Republicans denounced the memo and demanded that Democrats repudiate it and find out who was responsible.

``I never saw the kind of blatant partisan politics emerge that has apparently emerged as revealed in this memorandum,'' said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

The committee chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., called it ``an effort to discredit the committee's work, undermine its conclusions, no matter what those conclusions may be.''

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said ``it seems that Democratic leaders now want to play politics with our intelligence agencies, as those agencies help fight the war on terror.''

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said he had heard about but not seen the memo. ``I certainly hope that people are not trying to use this issue, this important issue, for political gain,'' he said.

Democrats said it was Republicans who were politicizing the inquiry by failing to examine whether the administration manipulated the intelligence to boost its argument for war.

``It is disturbing that individuals are seeking to score political points and that a draft paper describing the rights of the minority to push for a full and fair review of these issues is being so grossly mischaracterized to try to deflect attention from the real issue,'' Rockefeller said.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said he had no role in preparing the memo, ``but if it expresses the frustration of many senators on this committee that we have created this firewall to protect the administration, then this memo frankly speaks to real feelings.''

Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., said the memo is not the real issue. ``The real issue is what led to decisions that don't match with what the reality is that we've come to find on the ground in Iraq,'' he said.

Democratic memo called attack plan
Jay works to patch leak { November 6 2003 }
Leaked memo sparks rancor in senate
Memo widens rift over senate inquiry { November 5 2003 }
Open letter to jay { November 7 2003 }
Rockefeller babbled on incoherently { October 15 2003 }
Rockefeller not really after intelligence problem

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