Report to say administration overstated threat

Posted 6:05pm November 1

by Aaron Huertas
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is planning to release a report concerning pre-war intelligence gathering in Iraq that is critical of the intelligence community for overstating the weapons of mass destruction threat and links between Saddam Hussein and terrorist groups, congressional sources told the Washington Post last week.

Among the intelligence shortfalls that are reportedly going to be cited is the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. The document, put together by the CIA, argues that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and would continue to threaten the United States with them. The estimate states, among other threats, that if Iraq had gotten access to some materials, it could have developed a nuclear strike capability within a year.

Staff members of the committee reportedly were surprised by the amount of material in the estimate that was supported either circumstantially or came from only a single source.

Senator Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the committee, speaking on CNN said, “One of the things that’s come through to me, based on reading and re-reading the National Intelligence Estimates and the daily intelligence, is that a lot of the key judgments that were made were not correct judgments.”

A CIA spokesman told the Washington Post, “The NIE reflects 10 years of work regarding Iraq’s WMD programs. It is based on many sources and disciplines, both ours and those of partners around the world.”

Dr. Jennifer Sims, professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University, characterized NIEs as something for the archives of intelligence.

“The problem with NIEs,” she said, “is that by the time they are written, most policy-makers have already made up their minds on the subject based on the daily intelligence feed they are getting.”

She said NIEs can be used to look back on intelligence operations after the fact to reevaluate methods and scope.

In a press conference held on Tuesday President Bush stated, “The intelligence that said [Saddam Hussein] had a weapons system was intelligence that had been used by a multinational agency, the United Nations, to pass resolutions; it had been used by my predecessor to conduct bombing raids. It was intelligence gathered from a variety of sources that clearly said Saddam Hussein was a threat.”

Democrats have criticized the Bush administration for compromising normal means of gathering intelligence in order to better sway public opinion in favor of the war. The House Committee on Intelligence has been launching its own investigation that focuses more on the role of administration officials in the gathering, interpretation and dissemination of information about Iraqi threats. Senator John Rockefeller, D-W.Va.) is pushing to have the committee hear from the Defense Department’s Office of Special Plans concerning information gathered leading up the war in Iraq. William Luti, the director of the office, has denied accusations that his office used questionable intelligence to help the administration improve its case for war.

It remains unclear, however, how far the administration is obligated by law to cooperate with the committee.

“We’re going to get this one way or the other,” Rockefeller told the Washington Post. “If the majority declines to put the executive branch at risk, then they are going to have a very difficult minority to deal with.”

A recent Gallup poll shows that public support for the war in Iraq is leveling out after falling over the past few months. Fifty-four percent of those polled believe it was worth it for the United States to have gone into Iraq, while 44 percent responded that they did not

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