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[casi] Inquiry Faults Intelligence on Iraq



http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9230-2003Oct23.html

Inquiry Faults Intelligence on Iraq
Threat From Saddam Hussein Was Overstated, Senate
Committee Report Finds

By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 24, 2003; Page A01


The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is
preparing a blistering report on prewar intelligence
on Iraq that is critical of CIA Director George J.
Tenet and other intelligence officials for overstating
the weapons and terrorism case against Saddam Hussein,
according to congressional officials.

The committee staff was surprised by the amount of
circumstantial evidence and single-source or disputed
information used to write key intelligence documents
-- in particular the October 2002 National
Intelligence Estimate -- summarizing Iraq's
capabilities and intentions, according to Republican
and Democratic sources. Staff members interviewed more
than 100 people who collected and analyzed the
intelligence used to back up statements about Iraq's
chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capabilities,
and its possible links to terrorist groups.

Like a similar but less exhaustive inquiry being
completed by the House intelligence committee, the
Senate report shifts attention toward the intelligence
community and away from White House officials, who
have been criticized for exaggerating the Iraqi
threat. At stake as the presidential political season
approaches, said committee sources and intelligence
figures, is who gets blamed for misleading the
American public if weapons of mass destruction are
never found in Iraq -- the president or his
intelligence chief.

Asked about the upcoming report, Sen. Pat Roberts
(R-Kan.), chairman of the committee, said "the
executive was ill-served by the intelligence
community." The intelligence was sometimes "sloppy"
and inconclusive, he said. "That's a concern I have
with the total report" on Iraq.

"I worry about the credibility of the intelligence
community," said Roberts, who added that he is
concerned about demoralizing the intelligence agencies
when intensive counterterrorism operations are going
on overseas. Still, he insisted, "If there's stuff on
the fan, we have to get the fan cleaned."

Despite the progress it has made since June in poring
over 19 volumes of classified material, the committee
is deeply divided over investigating how the Bush
administration used intelligence in its public
statements about Iraq.

Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va.) said
yesterday he had secured a promise from Roberts to ask
one executive agency, the Defense Department and, in
particular, its Office of Special Plans, for
information about the intelligence it collected or
analyzed on Iraq.

The office has been accused by some congressional
Democrats and administration critics of gathering
unreliable intelligence on Iraq that bolstered the
administration's case for war. Those allegations have
not been substantiated, and the director of the
office, William Luti, has denied them.

Rockefeller is under considerable pressure from the
Senate Democratic leadership not to allow Roberts to
focus only on intelligence bureaucrats while avoiding
questions about whether Bush, Vice President Cheney,
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others
exaggerated the threat from Iraq.

But it is unclear whether the committee has
jurisdiction on this topic. Also, the administration
could cite executive privilege and refuse to give the
committee information related to internal White House
discussions, as it did when a congressional inquiry
tried to find out what Bush had been told about al
Qaeda and the possibility of civilian aircraft used as
weapons before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"We're going to get this one way or the other,"
Rockefeller said yesterday. "If the majority declines
to put the executive branch at risk, then they are
going to have a very difficult minority to deal with."


He said that if that turned out be the case , he has
the five votes necessary, under Rule 6 of the
committee's rules of procedure, to launch an inquiry
into the administration's use of intelligence.

The House and Senate intelligence committees have
traditionally worked in a more bipartisan fashion than
other congressional committees.

CIA spokesman Bill Harlow defended the intelligence
community's performance. "The NIE reflects 10 years of
work regarding Iraq's WMD [weapons of mass
destruction] programs. It is based on many sources and
disciplines, both ours and those of partners around
the world," he said.

Harlow said that "the committee has yet to take the
opportunity to hear a comprehensive explanation of how
and why we reached our conclusions," nor has it
accepted an offer made Wednesday by Tenet to hear from
him and senior intelligence officials.

The Senate panel's report, congressional sources said,
will be harsher and better substantiated than the
inquiry near completion by the House counterpart. Last
month, leaders of the House panel sent Tenet a letter
criticizing him for having relied too heavily on "past
assessments" dating to 1998 and on "some new
'piecemeal' intelligence," both of which "were not
challenged as a routine matter."

Tenet shot back an angry letter criticizing the
committee for not interviewing enough people.

Among the more than 100 people interviewed by the
Senate are analysts, scientists, operators and
supervisory officials from the CIA, the departments of
Energy and State, the National Security Agency and the
Defense Intelligence Agency, as well as officials at
the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Roberts said none of those questioned have said they
were pressured to change their work to fit the
administration's point of view. Other committee
members pointed out, however, that some analysts may
not have felt free to speak candidly because there
were supervisors in the room during their interviews.

Several sources said the committee report is also
critical "of the substantiation the intelligence
community gave the administration" on many of its
assessments of weapons of mass destruction. They said
caveats by agencies other than the CIA often were
played down.

The committee also has not found underlying
intelligence that would support some changes in the
intelligence community's public conclusions about Iraq
in the months leading up to the war. For example, the
declassified version of the October 2002 NIE declares
in the first paragraph that "Baghdad has chemical and
biological weapons . . . "

In all other documents, the intelligence community
used more qualified language.

A CIA spokesman said the statement, like the entire
NIE, was written under extreme time pressure, and that
the information was qualified in supporting material
later in the report.

The committee is also looking at why some exculpatory
information contained in the raw intelligence reports
"seems to not have filtered up" to finished
intelligence reports.

Roberts described the report as "95 percent done." But
others on the committee, including Rockefeller, want
to broaden the inquiry. They insist the report is in
the preliminary stage and will not be finished until
the end of the year, or later.

 2003 The Washington Post Company

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