Calls for Public Release of Key Intelligence Committee Information to Ensure Honest Debate on Iraq
Washington, DC–Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today sent the following letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, calling on the Republican leader to join Democrats in quickly declassifying important provisions of the report of the Senate Select Committee on pre-war intelligence. In the opinion of a bipartisan majority of the committee, the Bush Administration’s decision to classify certain sections of the report is “without justification,” and Democrats want to ensure the American people have access to all relevant details of such an important–though still-unfinished–accounting of how America was led to war in Iraq.
The text of the letter is below.
September 13, 2006
The Honorable William H. Frist
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Leader Frist:
Late last week the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on a bipartisan basis released reports that discussed Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program and its links to terrorism and the intelligence community’s use of information provided by the Iraqi National Congress. These reports provided the American people with important insights into these critical issues.
Unfortunately, the Administration chose to classify certain important portions of these reports that should have been released to the public. A bipartisan majority of the Intelligence Committee disagreed with the Administration’s decision to classify certain portions of the report’s findings and conclusions and said that classifying this information is “without justification.”
In my view, the Administration’s decision to classify one particular portion of the report – a section discussing a CIA document about the alleged meeting in Prague between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer – is especially troubling and lacking in justification. As you may know, as recently as this Sunday on national television, Vice President Cheney left open the possibility that such a meeting may have occurred. However, a bipartisan majority of the Intelligence Committee, after thoroughly reviewing relevant intelligence reports and assessments, concluded “no such meeting occurred.” The continued classification of sections referencing this meeting only serves to prevent the American public from knowing the full facts about this matter.
The classified version of the Intelligence Committee’s report, including the sections dealing with the alleged Atta meeting, are available for all Senators to review in the Committee’s offices in room SH-211. I urge you to join with me to encourage all members to review this text so they understand its importance and why that text can and should be made available to the American people.
In light of the importance of this issue, I also think it is important that the Senate act to declassify those portions of the text on pages 96, 97, and 98 of the Intelligence Committee’s report that are currently redacted but do not involve sources and methods.
I plan to offer an amendment on that subject to the legislation currently pending in the Senate. Notwithstanding the procedural situation on the floor, I hope you will join with me to offer this important amendment, permit the Senate to act on it, and support its swift adoption.
While I understand that S. Res. 400 spells out a process for the Senate to declassify information, that process is a lengthy one that is likely to take us well beyond your announced adjournment date for the U.S. Senate. Therefore, in light of the importance of this issue, I think it is appropriate that the Senate act expeditiously to declassify this material.