Florida congressmen anger Sept. 11 panel membersBy Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 29, 2002
The joint House-Senate investigation into pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures has been getting good reviews from watchdog groups and prominent play in the media.
If only it were going over so well with the lawmakers who -- nominally -- are conducting the inquiry.
Officially, the 37 members of the House and Senate intelligence committees constitute the temporary joint panel that was established in February to find out what went wrong before Sept. 11.
In practice, only two members have any real say: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, D-Fla., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Sanibel.
As co-chairmen of the inquiry, the Floridians are exercising near total control over the panel, forbidding the inquiry's staff to speak to other lawmakers.
Graham said the policy is necessary to keep the staff focused on the investigation and writing a final report rather than answering questions from members of the joint inquiry.
But it has infuriated a number of the Floridians' colleagues.
"You think members should have input into a report they're going to be putting their names on? Oh, what an idea!" inquiry member Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., remarked sarcastically in an interview last week.
"Not to mention that we're investigating the FBI and the FBI is investigating us! How silly is that?" Roberts said.
He was referring to Graham and Goss' decision to invite the bureau to query members of the joint panel to find the source of a media leak of classified information in June.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., another member of the joint inquiry, was also critical. "Not to say it won't be a good report. But it's hard for us to say if it covers everything, because we haven't had any input."
And Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the Republican vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said at the inquiry's public hearing Sept. 18 that members are "frustrated at what they perceive to be efforts to limit their ability to participate fully."
In a Capitol hallway last week, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., argued with Roberts about the merits of holding public hearings into the intelligence lapses.
Rockefeller supported the hearings, but Roberts was having none of it.
"I'm boycotting the public hearings because I think it's ridiculous," Roberts was overheard telling Rockefeller.
Young meets with Cheney on Iraq
Rep. C.W. Bill Young didn't need any convincing about the need to go to war against Iraq. But the Largo Republican says his meeting last week with Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Director George Tenet provided further evidence about the need to attack.
Young said he couldn't discuss details of the classified briefing, but he summed it up this way: "We had an opportunity to really dig into specifics. The specifics are very real. There were a few new things."
Congress is expected to vote on a war resolution in the next two weeks.
Thurman becomes a grandmother
Rep. Karen Thurman, D-Dunnellon, is a first-time grandmother.
On Wednesday, Thurman's daughter gave birth to Karlee Krista Thurman, who weighed 7 pounds 15 ounces.
Thurman left Washington to be with her daughter during the delivery at a Gainesville hospital.
The congresswoman was scheduled to moderate a panel Wednesday on long-term health care featuring Tom Scully, head of the agency that oversees Medicare. She canceled her appearance at the last minute when she learned her daughter was in labor.
-- Times staff writers Mary Jacoby, Bill Adair and Sara Fritz contributed to this column.
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