Congress Debates Downing St. Memo

September 17th, 2005 - by admin

9/11 Evidence Ordered Destroyed – 2005-09-17 00:15:24

Lawmakers Debate Downing Street Memo on Iraq War
Dan Robinson / Capitol Hill

(September 14, 2005) — There has been new debate in Congress over the Downing Street memo, the document quoting a British official in 2002 as saying the Bush administration shaped intelligence to justify a pre-determination to go to war against Saddam Hussein.

The Downing Street memo describes notes from meetings involving British Prime Minister Tony Blair, cabinet members and other officials on July 23, 2002.

It contains comments attributed to the then head of Britain’s MI-6 intelligence service, Richard Dearlove, quoting him as saying he had concluded war was inevitable because President Bush was determined to remove Saddam Hussein through military action.

He was also quoted as saying “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” and that war would be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction].”

President Bush and Prime Minister Blair have strongly denied having had any pre-determination regarding action against Saddam Hussein, citing among other things, their efforts to obtain a U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq before military plans proceeded.

House Democrats earlier this year introduced two resolutions of inquiry seeking records from the State Department, Pentagon, and White House on pre-war communications with Britain regarding U.S. policy on Iraq.

Both were considered Wednesday by the House International Relations Committee, where Republicans downplayed the significance of the Downing Street document.

Committee chairman, Henry Hyde, argued that while pre-war intelligence had been flawed, dredging up what he called conspiracy theories now serves no purpose, adding many Democrats shared the belief Iraq posed a weapons of mass destruction threat:

“The Downing Street memo does not raise anything new,” said Mr. Hyde. “The decision to go to war in Iraq and the intelligence surrounding the decision have been examined, and re-examined and re-examined.”

Republicans also accused Democrats of playing politics with the Downing Street memo with the objective of attacking President Bush.

“Rather than focus on the future and taking an active role in helping to drive policy to assist Iraq in the transformation into a Democratic nation, and as a catalyst for further reforms in the region, there are those who simply wish to focus on partisan political efforts,” said Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Democrats such as Congresswoman Diane Watson fired back, accusing Republicans of trying to bury the truth about pre-war planning.

“Let us arm ourselves with the facts, as we know them,” she said. “Let us seek truth whenever we can. Do not stifle truth, if we want to regain credibility and our position among the leading nations of the world.”

Congressman William Delahunt sought to connect public opinion polls showing growing concerns among Americans about President Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq, with questions raised by the Downing Street memo.

“It is the American people that have the right to know, that want to know, that are demanding answers,” he said. “That is why, in some respects, the confidence of the American people in terms of their support for this war is eroding. Not because of what is being said about the president, but they want a full examination and explanation of how we got ourselves here and what we’re going to do about it.”

With the exception of one Republican, Congressman Jim Leach of Iowa, the Republican-controlled committee voted mostly along party lines to report both resolutions on the Downing Street memo unfavorably to the full House of Representatives.

Also sent with an unfavorable vote was a separate resolution on another issue related to Iraq that sought documents regarding the disclosure of the identity of a CIA agent, Valerie Plame, whose husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, is a key critic of the Bush administration, over its justifications for using military action.

The leak of her identity is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Weldon: Atta Papers Destroyed on Orders
Donna de la Cruz / Associated Press

(September 15, 2005) — A Pentagon employee was ordered to destroy documents that identified Mohamed Atta as a terrorist two years before the 2001 attacks, a congressman said Thursday.

The employee is prepared to testify next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee and was expected to name the person who ordered him to destroy the large volume of documents, said Rep. Curt Weldon (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa.

Weldon declined to name the employee, citing confidentiality matters. Weldon described the documents as “2.5 terabytes” ˜ as much as one-fourth of all the printed materials in the Library of Congress, he added.

A Senate Judiciary Committee aide said the witnesses for Wednesday’s hearing had not been finalized and could not confirm Weldon’s comments.

A message left Thursday with a Pentagon spokesman, Army Maj. Paul Swiergosz, was not immediately returned.

Weldon has said that Atta, the mastermind of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and three other hijackers were identified in 1999 by a classified military intelligence unit known as “Able Danger,” which determined they could be members of an al-Qaida cell.

On Wednesday, former members of the Sept. 11 commission dismissed the “Able Danger” assertions. One commissioner, ex-Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., said, “Bluntly, it just didn’t happen and that’s the conclusion of all 10 of us.”

Weldon responded angrily to Gorton’s assertions.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable that a commission would say this program just didn’t exist,” Weldon said Thursday.

Pentagon officials said this month they had found three more people who recall an intelligence chart identifying Atta as a terrorist prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Two military officers, Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott, have come forward to support Weldon’s claims.

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