Wednesday February 10th, 2016 3:45AM

Collins says administration did not make its case for action against Syria

By Derreck Booth Anchor/reporter
WASHINGTON D.C. - As Congress debated the White House plan for military action against the Bashar Assad regime in Syria, Congressman Doug Collins of Gainesville said the administration did not make its case for him Wednesday.

Collins, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Relations, was present for the hearing where President Barack Obama's administration made its pitch for a military strike over evidence the Assad regime used chemical weapons.

"Frankly, I don't think they made the case. I think, in fact, in some ways in my mind they actually gave more questions than they did answers, and I think the American people will see that. I think that's the very thing that the American people and I know the people of the 9th District are struggling with," Collins said following the hearing.

Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey testified before the committee.

As the debate moved on, Collins said nothing was a game changer for his skepticism of the strike.

"I continue to be abreast and do exactly what I promised the people of the 9th District I'd do, and that is look at all cases and all evidence. We'll see where it goes from there, but at this point the administration has not made their case," Collins said.

Collins had time to question the cabinet panel and pushed them over previous alleged chemical weapons use by the Syrian regime.

"Assad has used it many times before, even after the President (Obama) said we're drawing a red line here, and that we will act. Well, we didn't act, and I think that was part of my line of questioning was why we didn't act. Even when we had some possible intelligence that he (Assad) was getting ready to act, we still did nothing," Collins said.

On that intelligence front, Associated Press reported Wednesday that U.S. officials said American intelligence agencies did not detect the Syrian regime was readying a massive chemical weapons attack in the days ahead of the strike.

Officials said intercepts of communications telling Syrian military units to prepare for the strikes were in the hands of intelligence agencies but had not yet been ``processed" in Washington.

As far as his House colleagues, Collins said they remained divided over whether to authorize the action against Syria. He said the divide is not partisan.

"This is one of the truest forms of democracy and matters of conscious in dealing with these issues of war, and I think that's what you're seeing up here right now."

In the other chamber, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote next week on a measure giving President Obama the authority to use military force against Syria.

The Foreign Relations Committee approved the resolution Wednesday by a 10-to-7 vote. Any military mission launched against Syria would have to last no more than 90 days. It can't involve any American troops on the ground for combat operations, according to the Senate resolution.

Associated Press contributed to this story.
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