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Congress Debates Iraq Pre-War Intelligence, Prisoner Treatment

Questions about the issue of intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq remain in the spotlight in Capitol Hill. Later Wednesday a congressional committee considers a resolution by opposition Democrats seeking information from the Bush administration, amid more heated debate across the political spectrum over the war in Iraq and the issue of treatment of terrorist suspects.

A resolution before the Republican-controlled House International Relations Committee marks the latest attempt by Democrats to intensify debate over Iraq pre-war intelligence.

It seeks documents and other records involving the White House Iraq Group, comprising officials who were the driving force behind President Bush's determination to remove [former Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein.

House Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to push through a number of resolutions relating to Iraq intelligence, and the CIA leak case only to have them voted down at the committee level.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich has been a primary force behind these efforts. "The White House Iraq Group is now the subject of a resolution of inquiry that more and more members of the House [of Representatives] are signing on to, to get the documents to determine exactly how did we get to where we are today?"

Officials named include Andrew Card and Karl Rove, White House Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff respectively, as well as I. Lewis Libby, who has been indicted in connection with the case involving a leak of the identity of a CIA officer, Valerie Plame.

Others include Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and Karen Hughes, current Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and a close confidant of the president.

House Democratic leaders urged President Bush in a letter Tuesday to give an assurance that he will not pardon Mr. Libby.

Asked about this in a White House briefing, spokesman Scott McClellan said only that the investigation is ongoing and the legal system should be allowed to run its course.

As debate continues over Iraq intelligence, there have been arguments over another issue, the Washington Post report last week about alleged secret prisons run by the CIA, and overall U.S. policy regarding treatment of terrorist suspects.

On the floor of the House, comments by Democratic Congresswoman Lynne Woolsey brought a response from Republican John Mica:

WOOLSEY: That's right, the Bush administration has come out against an amendment that states for the record that the United States opposes the use of torture. Do they really want people to think we support torture?

MICA: We just heard more Bush bashing about accusations of torture in Iraq. I wonder where some of these same people were when Abu Ghraib prison had the torture of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and other people in that society…?

In a draft of a letter circulated on Capitol Hill, House and Senate Republican leaders call for an investigation of the possible disclosure of classified information in connection with the Washington Post report.

Republicans say such a disclosure could endanger efforts to protect Americans from terrorist attacks and have serious long-term consequences.

In response, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi renewed a demand for the Republican leadership to authorize a joint investigation into the possible manipulation of pre-war intelligence.

Republicans accuse Democrats of using the Washington Post story as the basis for making unsubstantiated allegations that terrorist suspects are being mistreated.

President Bush stated this week that the United States does not practice torture, while refusing to respond to questions about the Washington Post report.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan faced a stream of questions from reporters about reported administration opposition, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, to proposed anti-torture legislation in Congress.

"Let me give it to you, just like the president has. We do not torture. He does not condone torture, and he would never. . .let me respond, and he would never authorize the use of torture," Mr. McClellan says.

Meanwhile, 18 House Democrats sent a letter to Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, who is visiting Washington this week, asking him to meet with them to discuss the pre-war Iraq intelligence issue.

Mr. Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress supplied information used by the Bush administration in support of what it said were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, information that later proved to be false.

In their letter, House Democrats ask for Mr. Chalabi's cooperation in providing what they call details and reasons for his involvement in the manipulation of intelligence as the Bush administration pushed for war in Iraq.