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Opposition Democrats Call Bush Iraq Intelligence Probe 'Insufficient' - 2004-02-03

Opposition Democrats in Congress are calling President Bush's decision to appoint a commission to investigate intelligence before the war in Iraq "insufficient." Republicans say Mr. Bush is taking the right steps to address the issue.

Key Democrats took to the floor of the Senate to question President Bush's motivations for announcing he will appoint a special commission.

Senate minority leader Tom Daschle says it's now clear that Congress was given "bad information" on which members based their votes for a resolution in 2002 authorizing U.S. military action in Iraq.

Mr. Daschle says President Bush's approach of appointing a commission will not result in answers that will satisfy the American people.

"The way the president, this administration, is proposing that this investigation be done flies in the face of past precedent, and that cloud that hangs over any investigation that could not be as open and honest and ultimately successful as it needs to be," he said.

Even stronger words came from Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.

"We accumulated this information, we said through our intelligence sources we have 550 known locations, and we were wrong in every instance," he said. "How can that be? How can the intelligence community have missed it?"

For their part, Senate Republicans, such as Georgia's Saxby Chambliss, defended the president's decision to appoint a commission.

Reminding lawmakers that there was no question former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had been developing weapons of mass destruction in the past, he accused Democrats of playing election year politics.

"Now here we are moving into an election year, and we're seeing sniping for political reasons, and not solving problems for the right reasons," he said. "And we as members of this body, and as members of the House, have an obligation to the American people to find out what went wrong. But let's don't politicize it, let's figure out what was wrong."

House of Representatives Democrats sent a letter to President Bush saying "a commission appointed and controlled by the White House will not have the independence or credibility necessary."

At the White House, reporters pressed spokesman Scott McClellan to explain why Congress shouldn't play a role in the formation of an independent commission.

"Right now you already have congressional committees that are looking into the pre-war intelligence relating to Iraq," he said. "So they are already in the process of exercising their oversight responsibilities. You also have the CIA which undertook quite some time ago a review of that intelligence, they continue to look at that intelligence, they have outside people involved in looking at that intelligence."

President Bush is expected to formally announce the commission this week. However, it's unlikely any of its conclusions would be issued before next November's presidential election.