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Debates on Pre-war Intelligence Efforts reach U.S. Congress - 2003-06-12

Controversy continues about U.S. intelligence efforts in the months before the invasion of Iraq. The matter is now being debated in the U.S. Congress. Robert Raffaele has more.

Majority Republican U.S. lawmakers have rejected Democratic pleas for a formal inquiry into the handling of U.S. intelligence on Iraq’s weapons programs, prior to the U.S.-led war.

Wednesday in Washington, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts called for congressional oversight already underway to continue.

Senator Roberts held a press conference with fellow Republicans, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner and House Intelligence Chairman Porter Goss.

Senate Democrats had called for an inquiry to learn whether intelligence officials overstated evidence, to justify the war. Senators Roberts and Warner promised not to allow bipartisan bickering to taint their investigations.

“I will not allow the committee to be politicized or to be used as an unwitting tool for any political strategist. That is not good for the community, that is not good for the committee, and it is not good for our national security.”

“The evidence that I have examined does not rise to give the presumption that any one in this administration has hyped or cooked or embellished such evidence to a particular purpose.”

Senator Roberts and his Democratic counterpart on the Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller, had tried unsuccessfully to work out an agreement on a formal probe. After Wednesday’s press conference, Senator Rockefeller called congressional oversight efforts so far ‘inadequate.’ He said some of his Republican colleagues apparently want to, in his words, ‘sleepwalk through history.’

Senator Roberts said his committee would continue to review documented pre-war assessments of Iraq’s weapons programs, and then compare those assessments to the results of ongoing searches. Critics point out that some of the Bush administration’s evidence later proved false. For example, documents indicating Iraq imported uranium from Niger were forgeries.

The White House has maintained that Iraq has probably destroyed or hidden much of its chemical or biological weapons. President Bush has expressed optimism they will eventually be found.