Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Is Wichita Waking Up To Roberts?

It's about time.


Many Kansans, including members of The Eagle editorial board, have long admired Sen. Pat Roberts for his plainspokenness and reputation for fair brokering of issues.

So it's troubling that Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is fast gaining the reputation in Washington, D.C., as a reliable partisan apologist for the Bush administration on intelligence and security controversies.

We hope that's not true. But Roberts' credibility is on the line.

From Abu Ghraib abuses to secret CIA detainee prisons to the Valerie Plame affair, critics say, Roberts has become a dependable shill for the White House, ever ready to shield Bush policy from criticism and ever willing to compromise Congress' legitimate oversight role.

A prime example: He has dragged his feet on a promised but long-delayed Senate investigation into whether the White House cherry-picked and amplified prewar intelligence to fit its preconceived goal of invading Iraq.

This week, Roberts sidetracked a Senate Intelligence Committee inquiry into the possibly illegal National Security Agency wiretap program, saying the White House had agreed to brief lawmakers more regularly and to work with him on a behind-the-scenes "fix" of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

That prompted a scathing New York Times editorial Friday headlined "Doing the President's Dirty Work," which opined: "Is there any aspect of President Bush's miserable record on intelligence that Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not willing to excuse and help to cover up?" (...)

But whether the law needs a "fix" is far from certain. Roberts' deal could thwart Congress' duty to learn more about and evaluate this program, while securing from the White House only a vague pledge to talk about fixing the law down the road. (...)

What's bothering many, though, is that Roberts seems prepared to write the Bush team a series of blank checks to conduct the war on terror, even to the point of ignoring policy mistakes and possible violations of law.

That's not oversight -- it's looking the other way.
It's nice to see an editorial like this about Roberts from Wichita, but their getting on him now for ignoring policy mistakes and possible violations of law is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. It's their job to report this kind of stuff all along.

How many times did the Wichita Eagle, or any news outlet in Kansas report how Roberts purposefully stymied an investigation into leaks of classified information that "might have tipped off terrorists that one of their channels of communication had been compromised"? Did they ever report that at all?

Talk about giving someone a blank check. Let's hope they stay on him.


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