Phase II. As General Peter Pace and General John Abizaid told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday that Iraq was on the verge of civil war, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Pat Roberts was complaining to The New York Times that the White House was obstructing the declassification of two new sections of his committee�s long awaited Phase II inquiry into the administration�s use of pre-war intelligence. �I have been disappointed by this administration�s unwillingness to declassify material contained in these reports, material which I believe better informs the public, but that does not � I repeat, does not � jeopardize intelligence operations, sources and methods,� Roberts told The Times.

The first phase of the Intelligence Committee�s findings, which examined the intelligence community�s mistakes, had been delivered back in the summer of 2004. Now, more than two years after the release of Phase I, as observers from across the political spectrum acknowledge the grim catastrophe of the current situation in Iraq, the Senate Intelligence Committee�s partially completed Phase II report has taken on a historical quality, even in advance of its anticipated release. At this point, what�s surprising is that there�s anything that could be contained in it that anyone finds worthy of suppressing.

According to The Times, four Republicans voted against one of the newly completed sections of the Phase II report, the one investigating how intelligence provided by Ahmad Chalabi�s Iraqi National Congress influenced the administration�s decision to go to war. According to Senate sources, the four Republicans who voted against the Chalabi section findings are Senators Trent Lott, Orrin Hatch, Saxby Chambliss, and Kit Bond.

Is there anything in the section that we didn�t know already from news reports, I wondered? �Let me put it this way,� one committee staff source said. �What�s surprising is what the Committee agreed to conclude, not that anything so revolutionary was disclosed. What�s surprising is that these facts and conclusions were endorsed by a majority of the committee.�

Given the fact that Roberts is a close White House ally who has maneuvered to stymie investigations the White House finds inconvenient, a committee source said that staffers are mystified by Roberts� public denunciation of the White House for allegedly dragging its heels on declassifying the two newly completed sections of the report. �The [completed] sections were sent to the administration for fact checking and they were asked to do a classification review. And the sections came back with a lot more stuff to be classified. I am not convinced this has anything to do with the administration� trying to suppress parts of the report. �This is what we always go through with the intelligence bureaucracy.� Given that this is business as usual, staffers were scratching their heads over Roberts� public expressions of annoyance at the White House.

--Laura Rozen

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