Former US Ambassador to Iraq turned National Intelligence Director John Negroponte addressed the NIE in a speech last night, arguing that "the jihad in Iraq is shaping a new generation of terrorist operatives, but rejected assertions, stemming from a leaked intelligence estimate, that the United States is at a greater risk of attack than it was in 2001," per the AP. Also yesterday, the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee urged President Bush to declassify the NIE so the public can decide on its contents for themselves.
Senate Armed Services ranking member Carl Levin and Sens. Jack Reed and Hillary Clinton will hold a press conference today "to discuss Administration failures in Iraq and the war on terrorism" in the wake of the reporting on the NIE, per the press release.
At the informal hearing convened yesterday by Senate Democrats, in which their Republican colleagues did not participate, two retired US generals who served in Iraq repeated their calls for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign, charging that the Pentagon chief sought to exaggerate pre-war intelligence links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, dismissed military recommendations on necessary troops levels, and failed to implement a plan to fight the insurgency, per NBC's Scott Foster. Former Gens. John Batiste and Paul Eaton both called on Rumsfeld to step down back in April.
Senate Democrats plan to hold the rest of these sessions on the road. "They declined yesterday to name the cities in which they plan to hold field hearings before and after the November election, but aides said they would not be staged in states where Republican and Democratic candidates are locked in tight battles because they hope not to alienate potential witnesses who may be wary of being used as political pawns."
The San Francisco Chronicle writes that the sessions "might be good politics, which could produce some headlines, but Democrats maintain it is good policy."
Senate Judiciary Committee chair Arlen Specter is objecting to the detainee deal because, he says, it "would suspend a fundamental legal right against unlawful detention... Specter's opposition could complicate efforts to win congressional approval this week for a deal worked out Thursday." NBC's Ken Strickland advises, however, that Specter's objections aren't likely to hold up the bill.
The New York Times notes how Bush often tries to paint his Democratic opponents as being soft on terrorism by saying things like, "Most people want us to win," or, "I need members of Congress who understand that you can't negotiate with these [terrorists]," both of which imply that some Democrats want to lose or want to negotiate with al Qaeda. "...[T]his president, not known for particularly smooth oratory, could well be remembered for his perceived use of rhetorical sleight of hand that consistently ensnares and enrages his rivals."