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An Intelligent Democrat . . .

From the December 15, 2003 issue: on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Dec 15, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 14 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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--Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians coupled with growing indications of a relationship with al Qaeda suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent U.S. military action.

The intelligence committee's review of prewar intelligence may soon be finished--at least at the staff level. "The staff hopes to have it done by the end of the year," says Senator Christopher Bond of Missouri, a Republican member of the committee. "When the members chew it over and spit it out is unclear."

Relationships between Democrats and Republicans on the committee have been strained since the disclosure in early November of a political memo drafted by Democratic staffers for Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat. The memo suggested ways in which the Democrats could extract partisan advantage from the ongoing review. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia who sits on the committee, says several of his Democratic colleagues have since "stepped forward privately" to express concern about the memo and politicization of the intelligence oversight process. "I regret that Jay hasn't done that publicly."

Says Chambliss: "The Democratic memo took a shot at the chairman [Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican] and took a shot at undermining the intelligence on Iraq. . . . The memo to me did not sound like Jay [Rockefeller]. I've always suspected that the Democratic leadership put lots of pressure on him to politicize this process."

Bayh, for his part, hopes that the intelligence community will look carefully at reporting on the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. Bush administration officials have argued that such a review is appropriate, but should wait until after fighting in Iraq has subsided. "The reason [a review] is important is the guidance it gives us prospectively," says Bayh. "I understand the administration's position, but to retrospectively look at these connections gives us that guidance and I think that's a very useful undertaking."

"There's obviously a lot of smoke," says Bayh. "The real question is how much fire was there. The best case--it certainly looks as if there were many contacts, some kind of relationship there. I guess the best answer is that this is a developing story and we'll know more soon."

Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.