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Senator Pat Roberts: "You Have No Civil Liberties If You Are Dead"

September 25, 2014

As the Washington Post explained Wednesday, Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts is in real trouble. And the consistently ineffective Senate veteran didn't help his reelection cause when he called Senate Minority Harry Reid (D-NV) a "dictator" and accused President Obama of leading the United States down the path of "national socialism." After all, it was Roberts who defended the Bush administration's program of illicit NSA domestic surveillance by proclaiming, "You really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead." And it was Roberts who spearheaded the GOP effort to prevent the American people from learning about President Bush's uses--and misuses--of intelligence to sell his war in Iraq.
That checkered past didn't Senator Roberts from making nightmare predictions about America's future. As TPM described his dire warnings:

There's a palpable fear among Kansans all across this state that the America that we love and cherish and honor will not be the same America for our kids and grandkids," Roberts said, "and that's wrong. That's very wrong."
..."We have to change course because our country is heading for national socialism," Roberts said. "That's not right. It's changing our culture. It's changing what we're all about."

Roberts' slander was double. When it comes to the Big Lie so beloved by National Socialists, Pat Roberts did the full Goebbels in defense of President George W. Bush.
After the New York Times revealed the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping of Americans in late 2005, Roberts was quick to join colleagues John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in declaring:

"You really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead."

And Roberts didn't rest there. During his opening comments in the CIA confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden in May 2006, then Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) returned to that favorite Republican sound bite in defense of illegal domestic surveillance by the NSA. Roberts proclaimed:

"I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties. But you have no civil liberties if you are dead."

And according to Pat Roberts, Americans have no right to know how their government lied to them into an Iraq war that cost 4,500 American lives and over $1 trillion. It was his job, after all, to make sure that remained secret--at least until after President Bush had safely secured reelection in November 2004.
On June 20, 2003, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence began its work. Led by Republican Chairman Pat Roberts (KS) and Democratic Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller (WV), the SSCI promised a two-phase report on the march to war in Iraq. Phase 1 would examine the failings of the American intelligence community. Phase 2 would investigate the uses of pre-war intelligence and whether the administration had manipulated it to create a causus belli. Conveniently for the Bush White House, the potentially damaging Phase 2 inquiry would not come until after the election.
Not surprisingly, the SSCI Phase 1 Report released in July 2004 sought to lay the blame for faulty intelligence at the feet of the CIA. Chairman Roberts concluded that "what the President and the Congress used to send the country to war was information that was...flawed" and "most of the key judgments in the October 2002 national intelligence estimate on Iraq's WMD programs were either overstated or were not supported by the raw intelligence reporting." But Roberts also presumed the conclusion of the as-yet-uncompleted Phase 2 report, "the committee found no evidence that the intelligence community's mischaracterization or exaggeration of intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities was the result of politics or pressure."
During the very same press conference, Vice Chairman Rockefeller in response expressed his frustration and alarm over Roberts' statements:

"And I have to say, that there is a real frustration over what is not in this report, and I don't think was mentioned in Chairman Roberts' statement, and that is about the -- after the analysts and the intelligence community produced an intelligence product, how is it then shaped or used or misused by the policy-makers? So again there's genuine frustration -- and Chairman Roberts and I have discussed this many times -- that virtually everything that has to do with the administration has been relegated to phase two. My hope is that we will get this done as soon as possible."

Rockefeller had good reason to worry. As it turns out, Senator Roberts simply had no intention of ever pursuing the Phase 2 inquiry into the Bush's administration's use - or misuse - of pre-war intelligence. On July 9, 2004, Roberts told reporters, "We will proceed with (that work in) phase two. It is a priority. I made my commitment and it will get done." But on March 10, 2005, a straight-faced Roberts changed his tune:

"It got to be a problem in regard to a subjective point of view. If you ask any member of the administration, 'Why did you make that declarative statement?' ... basically, the bottom line is, they believed the intelligence and the intelligence was wrong. In addition, we were in an even-numbered year and you know what that means. So, we sort of came to a crossroads and that [Phase 2] is basically on the back burner."

Roberts' stonewalling for the Bush administration didn't end there. Upon the release of the Silberman-Robb Commission Report, Roberts on March 31, 2005 concluded, "I don't think there should be any doubt that we have now heard it all regarding prewar intelligence. I think that it would be a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further." Satisfied that the pretense of an investigation was provided while the Bush administration was still protected, Roberts added, "To go though that exercise, it seems to me, in a post-election environment--we didn't see how we could do that and achieve any possible progress. I think everybody pretty well gets it."
As for the Silberman-Robb Commission, it was designed to avoid the very issues Senator Roberts had so steadfastly refuse to investigate. As with the 9/11 Commission, President Bush initially opposed the formation of an independent panel to investigate Iraq WMD intelligence. And just as with the 9/11 Commission, Bush flip-flopped, caving to public pressure for an inquiry. But Bush's panel, led by Judge Laurence Silberman (the same judge who overturned Oliver North's felony conviction), would not include the subject of intelligence manipulation within its charter. The report concluded that the CIA had been "dead wrong" about Iraq WMD. But as Silberman himself noted:

"Well, on the [that] point, we duck. That is not part of our charter. We did not express any views on policymakers' use of intelligence -- whether Congress or the president. It wasn't part of our charter and indeed most of us didn't want to get into that issue because it's basically a political question and everybody knows -- you can look at the newspaper and see what people said and make your own judgment."

That judgment is what the Phase 2 report finally provided by the Democratic-led committee in June 2008.. As McClatchy summarized, the report determined:

"Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information," the report concluded.
Claims by President Bush that Iraq and al Qaida had a partnership "were not substantiated by the intelligence."
The president and vice president misrepresented what was known about Iraq's chemical weapons capabiliies.
Rumsfeld misrepresented what the intelligence community knew when he said Iraq's weapons productions facilities were buried deeply underground.
Cheney's claim that the intelligence community had confirmed that lead Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 was not true.

Ten years ago, Pat Roberts with a straight face declared his committee's probe "a priority," adding of the critical Phase 2 report, "I made my commitment and it will get done." But he reneged on his commitment, which is why Kansas voters need to send him packing.
After all, you don't have a right to a Senate seat when you're a liar.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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