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April 24, 2007

Amazing Statement Of Congressional Impotence By Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller

Charles Davis, a freelance reporter, briefly interviewed Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) last Wednesday. Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, made this startling statement about how the U.S. government really functions:

ROCKEFELLER: Don't you understand the way Intelligence works? Do you think that because I'm Chairman of the Intelligence Committee that I just say I want it, and they give it to me? They control it. All of it. All of it. All the time. I only get, and my committee only gets, what they want to give me.


Below is the background to what they were talking about—which is truly a matter of war and peace and life and death for millions of people. Included is a transcript and mp3 of the entire Davis/Rockefeller exchange.

• • •

Last month Seymour Hersh reported this:

In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda...

The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process...

American military and special-operations teams have escalated their activities in Iran to gather intelligence and, according to a Pentagon consultant on terrorism and the former senior intelligence official, have also crossed the border in pursuit of Iranian operatives from Iraq.

More recently, ABC reported the U.S. has "secretly encouraged and advised" an organization of Pakistanis operating inside Iran called Jundullah. Jundullah has "taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials." According to one of the experts quoted by ABC, Jundullah has been "executing them on camera." However:

U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or "finding" as well as congressional oversight.

Tribal sources tell ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its youthful leader, Abd el Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states.

You'd think—as Tom Engelhardt has written—that this screams out for further investigation. After all, this kind of activity could easily lead to war with Iran by accident. It could also easily lead to war on purpose: recall that Bush gave the CIA the go ahead to plan attacks within Iraq in order to create a pretext for war there. And Hersh quotes Flynt Leverett, formerly part of Bush's National Security Council staff, as saying "The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.”

Yet there's been essentially no follow up from the elite US media. It took Charles Davis, who apparently graduated from college less than a year ago, to ask the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee the most basic questions imaginable. Here's his exchange with Rockefeller in its entirety, which is worth listening to to hear Rockefeller's tone of voice and moments of hesitation:

DAVIS: I wonder if you've heard some of these news reports that the Bush administration is backing extremist groups in Pakistan to launch attacks against Iran? Are you familiar with those news reports?

ROCKEFELLER: I've seen no intelligence that would verify that.

DAVIS: Reports quote administration officials as saying this is going on and it's being done in a way to avoid oversight of the Intelligence Committee. Is there any way—

ROCKEFELLER: They'll go to any lengths to do that, as we've seen in the last two days [during hearings on FISA].

DAVIS: Is there anything you could do in your position as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee to find answers about this, if it is in fact going on?

ROCKEFELLER: Don't you understand the way Intelligence works? Do you think that because I'm Chairman of the Intelligence Committee that I just say I want it, and they give it to me? They control it. All of it. All of it. All the time. I only get, and my committee only gets, what they want to give me.

DAVIS: Is there any way someone, maybe not you, they can somehow press the administration to find something—if they're doing something that may be illegal—

ROCKEFELLER: I don't know that. I don't know that. I deal with Intelligence. That's it. They tend to avoid us.

DAVIS: Well, what do you think about these allegations?

ROCKEFELLER: I'm not—I don't comment on allegations. I can't. I can't afford to.

DAVIS: Okay. Thank you.

It's clear Jay Rockefeller isn't going to be an inspiring leader on this. If you're Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (and have a personal net worth of at least $82 million), it's not actually the case there's nothing you can do when the government of the United States is running secret operations all over the Middle East that may blow up into a massive new war. (Of course, you might believe that's the case, if like most Democratic politicians you've trained yourself into learned helplessness.)

Certainly the only way Rockefeller and people like him will act is if they receive enough encouragement and pressure. That's not going to come from anyone in our unbelievably decadent political class—they're all too busy in the vomitorium. But it could come from regular people, if we get our act together.

We'll see. In the meantime, congratulations to Charles Davis for his excellent work.

Posted at April 24, 2007 04:30 PM | TrackBack

JUSTICE IS BLIND and so is Congressional Oversight, aparently.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 24, 2007 05:28 PM

Oh dear and my goodness we would not want Rockefeller to rock the boat. Most likely 82 million is just not enough money for the destitute Rockefeller, it never is for the class he belongs with. I suspect Jonathan that you are being too nice to the dems as no doubt that they saw all the kickbacks and graft enjoyed by the republicans during their little heyday as the majority. I would guess the poor dems are now ready for their share of the loot so why rock the money boat? That would just spoil it for everyone now wouldn’t it.

The dems have made the news with their little dog and pony show saying bring the troops home in October yet they know Bush will veto the bill. Now if the dems actually CUT THE FUNDING FOR THE WAR I might sit up and take notice however that is not the case. Is it because they feel helpless or is it that they are just like the republicans. I vote for the latter though I am no expert on these matters.

So I suppose it is no huge surprise that Rockefeller won’t rock the boat, he is just a rock after all.

I would say get ready for a war with Iran.

Posted by: rob payne at April 24, 2007 10:17 PM

Rockefeller is a mewling disgrace.

Posted by: The Fool at April 25, 2007 07:04 AM

Rockefeller is an elitist that knows right from wrong but doesn't really care. I mean honestly, he's fat. In this moment of "honesty" he would have the interviewer believe that he is not in some way in-the-know of the goings on in the intelligence community.
He does this pawning himself off as being helpless. This is not the case. This is a man of enough wealth to pay for even the most sacred knowledge; Trust me, he need not beg for it lest he's a fool... Or just plain disinterested.
The time has come for people to do to power and profit what they did to physical magic and disco. Fuh get ta'bot it ah reddy!

Posted by: at April 25, 2007 10:50 AM

War with Iran? You must be joking. That "War" would last maybe three weeks and believe it or not, we would end up almost as bad as they would. The only reason for that btw, is the location of the battle. Iran has a very talented, agressive and experienced command corps that has been licking their chops fpr us since their spies were talling them we were going to try and invade. The U.S. military advantage (like most throughout history) is conditional at best.

Posted by: at April 25, 2007 10:57 AM

The key to dominance is secrecy. Most specifically, the concealment of comprehensive knowledge of one sides' ground level strenghts, valuable military "assets" and resources.

The U.S. equipment, numbers and skill could be trumped by Iranian geo-political advantage. These two sides offset and seperate themselves if and only if they lose their will. This almost never happens. That is what Guerilla War is all about. Welcome to the 21st Century jarheads!

Posted by: at April 25, 2007 11:17 AM

You may be one hundred percent correct in your assessment of what would happen with a confrontation with Iran and honestly I know nothing of military tactics which is because I have no interest in the military, an institution that I hope some day will no longer exist though I see little hope of that when you consider human nature. I probably know even less about politics but what I do know is that Bush is capable of just about anything and all the signs are there that he wants to go at it with Iran beginning with nuclear bombs or bunker busters as they now like to call them. As Hersh points out we see a similar pattern evolving to that of the rhetoric used by the Bushies regarding the buildup to war with Iraq. I find this worrisome as do many other people and I have very little confidence that reality is part of the Bush administration’s thought processes.

Posted by: rob payne at April 25, 2007 02:20 PM

That's what this next 100 billion from Congress is for, Iran that is. YOUR TAXDOLLARS AT WORK!!!

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 25, 2007 08:21 PM

When the people who run the government are all so damn rich, comfortable and privileged they have a great deal to lose - the wealth, the comfort, the privileges.

To actually engage in political leadership they would have to risk losing all of this, and have very little to actually gain.

So, they won't actually risk losing all of this. They will avoid political leadership.

The lesson, then, is that when the members of Congress are wealthy, comfortable and privileged, they are unwilling and unable to actually engage in anything resembling political leadership.

Members of Congress should be people who have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Posted by: Bobby Magee at April 25, 2007 09:05 PM

In all this bleating about how terrible Rockerfeller is, I hear no suggestions about how, as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee (this one? Can't see him listed.), he could make the DoHS, FBI or CIA do his bidding. These organisations each have a head. Who installs these people, and who do they report to? Who determines what they do? A quick look at , and 's about us pages don't reveal much. It says who they have control over, but not to whom they are answerable, specifically.

Posted by: me at April 26, 2007 06:25 AM

OK, here it is:

I think you're right, BTW, Jonathan. There needs to be pressure on him, and on other Democrats (who should have access to him) brought by describing actions they could take and constructing strong arguments about why they should do so. Making these well and widely understood would provide the most effective pressure.

Posted by: me at April 26, 2007 06:32 AM

Thanks for this, Jon. I second your congratulations to Charles Davis, too.

Posted by: Winter Patriot at April 26, 2007 10:09 PM

Iran would kick our ass, period. Anyone who suggests differently doesn't know their ass from a hole in the ground. It's not a matter of advantage or technology, it's a matter of geopolitical advantage. Iran would have it. We wouldn't. Basically, the Iraq War MADE Iran all but impervious to U.S. attack.

Posted by: at April 30, 2007 09:01 PM

What he likely means by this ("I can't. I can't afford to") is that he has effectively been blackmailed like so many others into silence.
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A Tiny Revolution: Comment on Amazing Statement Of Congressional Impotence By Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller

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