Reid Forces Senate Into Secret Session Over Intelligence Questions

Soon after the "phase one" Iraqi War intelligence report by the Senate Oversight Committee was completed in 2004, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Roberts, a Republican from Kentucky, told the Senate and the press that the investigation would continue into "phase two," which would look at *how* the intelligence had been used to drum up support for the war.

But "phase two" never happened. Today Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic minority leader, calling himself "a patient man," decided that he had waited long enough for that phase to begin. So, he forced the matter with an impassioned speech and a surprise invocation of Rule 21, which forces the Senate into a closed session. Since 1929, the Senate has held only 53 closed sessions.

The Senate went into that session and emerged two hours later with a bi-partisan panel that will begin the "phase two" investigation.

From Reid's speech on the Senate floor:

Never have I been so concerned about our country. We have gas prices that are really unbelievable. This year they've been over $3 in the state of Nevada. Diesel fuel is still over $3 a gallon in Nevada. The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives is under indictment. The man in charge of contracting for the federal government under indictment. Deficits, Mr. President, so far you can't see them. The deficits have been basically run up by President Bush's administration these last five years. We're the wealthiest nation in the world but we are very poor as it relates to health care. We have an intractable war in Iraq. Is it any wonder that I'm concerned about my family, my grandchildren?

This past weekend, we witnessed the indictment of I. Lewis Libby, the Vice President's chief of staff, also on the President's staff, a senior advisor to the President. Mr. Libby is the first sitting white house staffer to be indicted in 135 years. Is it any wonder, Mr. President, that I'm concerned about my grandchildren?

Reid expressed his frustration that the Republicans aren't willing to investigate the White House, even in relatively routine oversight roles, for political reasons. He pointed out that the Clinton Administration was routinely investigated and overseen by at Democratic Congress. He goes on to point out that not only is basic oversight necessary, but that it's clear that the White House is using very strong-armed tactics against its political opponents, while Republicans in Congress turn a blind eye:

Time and time again, this Republican-controlled Congress has consistently chosen to put its political interests ahead of our national security. They have repeatedly chosen to protect the American -- the Republican administration rather than to get to the bottom of what happened and why it happened. There's also another disturbing pattern, namely, about how this administration responded to those who challenged its assertions. Often this administration has actively sought to attack and undercut those who dared to raise questions about its preferred course. For example, when General Shinseki indicated several hundred thousand troops would be needed in Iraq, his military career was ended -- fired, relieved of duty when he out its inspectors.

When Nobel Prize winner and head of the IAEA raised questions about the administration's claims of Saddam's nuclear capabilities, the administration attempted to remove him from his post. When Ambassador Joe Wilson stated that there was an attempt by Saddam -- no attempt by Saddam to acquire weapons from Niger, the administration not only went after him to discredit him, they launched a vicious and coordinated campaign going so far as to expose the fact that his wife worked as a CIA Spy. These people are now having 24-hour protection fearing for their own safety. Given this administration's pattern of squashing those who challenge its misstatements, and I've only mentioned a few, what has been the response of the Republican-controlled Congress? Absolutely nothing. And where their inactions they provide political cover for this administration at the same time they keep the truth from our troops who continue to make large sacrifices in Iraq.

Finally, in what appeared to take the Republicans in the Senate almost completely by surprise, he quickly ends the speech and gets to his ultimate point -- invoking the little used Rule 21. (Here he's speaking to the President of the Senate, not Bush.)

Mr. President, enough time has gone by. I demand on behalf of the American people that we understand why these investigations aren't being conducted, and in accordance with rule 21, I now move that Senate go into closed session.

He was seconded immediately by Senator Durben, Democrat from Illinois, and the Senate immediately went into closed session. Later in the day, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was visible angered in front of the press, accusing Reid of a publicity stunt.

"This is an affront to me personally," said Frist, of Tennessee. "It's an affront to our leadership. It's an affront to the United States of America. And it is wrong."


On Tuesday, Reid and Frist agreed to name three Democrats and three Republicans on the intelligence committee who'll report to the leadership in two weeks on the progress of the panel's investigation.

Previous Comments


This is an affront to me personally," said Frist, of Tennessee. "It's an affront to our leadership. It's an affront to the United States of America. And it is wrong." Isn't there some saying about a pot calling a kettle something or other that may explain this statement? ;) I'm sorry, but a closed Senate session is an "Affront to the United States of America" and going to war based upon LIES is not? 'Scuse me Fristy, I'm not really feelin' ya on this one. By the way, I LOVE that moral judgement you make at the end. Its not "wrong", it just isn't what you would like to happen.

Lori G

I had the same thought on this, Ali, and apparently, we're not the only ones. found this over at Salon: Asked about Frist's characterization of the unannounced Senate closure as a "slap in the face" to the Republican leadership, Reid said: "It's a slap in the face to the American people that this investigation has been stymied, stopped, obstructions thrown up every step of the way. That's the real slap in the face." .



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