MANIPULATING INTELLIGENCE….Having slightly defended the honor of Senate Intelligence Committee chair Pat Roberts a few minutes ago, let’s switch gears and rip right back into him. You may recall that back in 2004, Roberts divided his committee’s investigation of prewar intelligence into two parts: Phase 1 assessed the intelligence agencies themselves, and Phase 2 was supposed to investigate possible prewar manipulation of intelligence by the Bush administration.

Needless to say, the purpose of this was political: it allowed the committee to blast the intelligence community before the 2004 election, but put off the delicate topic of administration malfeasance until after the election.

But then it got even worse: even after the election was over, Roberts still showed no inclination to go ahead with Phase 2. It just dropped into a black hole. Finally, a year after the election, with no progress apparent, Harry Reid dramatically shut down the Senate as a way of forcing Roberts to follow through on his promise. Roberts reluctantly said he would.

But guess what? There’s another election coming up this year, and you know what that means. The Hill reports:

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he wants to divide his panel?s inquiry into the Bush administration?s handling of Iraq-related intelligence into two parts, a move that would push off its most politically controversial elements to a later time.

….Questions about the Bush administration?s handling of pre-war intelligence have new political relevance as the midterm elections draw nearer. Public concern about the war in Iraq is considered a major reason for Bush?s low job approval rating, which, in turn, is widely viewed as harmful to congressional Republicans? political fortunes.

What a worm. We keep hearing that the intelligence committees in Congress are a rare example of sober, bipartisan consensus, but Roberts apparently subscribes to Grover Norquist’s definition of bipartisanship: it’s date rape. It looks like Roberts is still bound and determined to loyally do whatever it takes to cover up the Bush administration’s prewar manipulations.

Via Greg Sargent, who suggests that Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Dem on the committee, needs to grow a pair this time around and not let Roberts get away with this. Sam Rosenfeld agrees. So do I.

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