Yesterday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), co-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee (and probable source of many leaks of secret information) released a hand-scrawled letter he had written to VP Cheney two years ago after being briefed on the NSA domestic intel effort. Rockefeller, trying to score political points, raised the letter as proof of his doubts about the NSA program, and that his hands were tied, unable to do anything about it. This morning, Intel Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) released this statement which blows Rockefeller out of the water:
I am puzzled by the release yesterday of a July 2003 letter from Senator Rockefeller to the Vice President regarding the recently exposed intelligence collection program, which was authorized by the President shortly after September 11, 2001.
In his letter and accompanying press statement, Senator Rockefeller asserts that he had lingering concerns about the program designed to protect the American people from another attack, but was prohibited from doing anything about it.
A United States Senator has significant tools with which to wield power and influence over the executive branch. Feigning helplessness is not one of those tools.
If Senator Rockefeller truly had the concerns he claimed to have had in his two and a half year old letter, he could have pursued a number of options to have those concerns addressed:
First, he could have discussed his concerns with me or other Members of Congress who had been briefed on the program. He never asked me or the Committee to take any action consistent with the “concerns” raised in his letter.
Second, he could have raised objections with the Vice President during one of the many briefings we received. I have no recollection of Senator Rockefeller objecting to the program at the many briefings he and I attended together. In fact, it is my recollection that on many occasions Senator Rockefeller expressed to the Vice President his vocal support for the program. His most recent expression of support was only two weeks ago.
Finally, he could have pursued any number of legislative remedies. He chose to pursue none.
Senator Rockefeller could have taken any of these approaches to adress his “lingering concerns.” He did not. He chose instead to write a letter to the Vice President and for two and a half years, keep a copy of the letter in the Intelligence Committee vault and say nothing to anyone.
For the nearly three years Senator Rockefeller has served as Vice Chairman, I have heard no objection from him about this valuable program. Now, when it appears to be politically advantageous, Senator Rockefeller has chosen to release his two and a half year old letter. Forgive me if I find this to be inconsistent and a bit disingenuous.
So do we, Sen. Roberts. So do we.