Former chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay is calling for an independent inquiry into the U.S. intelligence failure over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday, Mr. Kay blamed faulty intelligence for the failure to find weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Kay says he has found no such weapons in Iraq, even though he and a number of governments, including the United States, believed they existed.
The Bush administration had cited intelligence saying Iraq had such weapons as a key reason for going to war.
Mr. Kay backed Democrats' calls for an independent inquiry into pre-war intelligence. "In this case," he said, "you will finally determine that it is going to take an outside inquiry, both to do it and to give yourself and the American people the confidence that you have done it."
Congressional Republicans and the White House oppose an independent investigation, fearing that U.S. intelligence could be compromised.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, notes his panel is conducting its own probe of the matter, and would send members a draft report on the probe next week.
Although no weapons have been found, Mr. Kay said evidence has been discovered that Iraq was involved in weapons programs banned by United Nations resolutions.
Many Democrats, including those seeking their party's nomination for president this year, believe the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to make the case for invading Iraq.
"Many of us feel that the evidence so far leads only to one conclusion: that what has happened was more than a failure of intelligence," said Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, who is on the Armed Services Committee. "It was the result of manipulation of intelligence to justify a decision to go to war."
Mr. Kay dismissed such comments, saying intelligence analysts were never under political pressure. He said questions about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction may never be answered, although he believed the search should continue.
The chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner, said it is premature to say there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. "It is far too early to reach any final judgments or conclusions," he said. Mr. Kay last week resigned as the top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq after six months on the job. He said he left the post because resources were being diverted from the search.