Congressional Democrats are criticizing CIA Director George Tenet for not taking responsibility for faulty intelligence on Iraq's weapons before the United States went to war in that country. They are reacting to a speech by the Central Intelligence Agency chief in Washington Thursday.
Democrats were quick to express disappointment with Mr. Tenet's speech, in which he defended his agency's work, despite inaccurate intelligence on Iraq's weapons.
"Mr. Tenet's speech failed, in my judgment, to acknowledge what the country has widely acknowledged, starting with David Kay and others, that the intelligence failed us with respect to Iraq," said Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.
But the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, while acknowledging the intelligence inaccuracies, said the focus should be on reform, not blame.
"I do not think this is the time to be really beating the intelligence community over the head and shoulders for what appears to be, at least to this senator, a global intelligence community omission or failure," he said. "Consequently there is great need for some systemic reform."
In the months before the war, the CIA accused ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein of stockpiling chemical and biological weapons, and seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.
After a six-month search, former U.S. arms inspector David Kay told Congress last week that no weapons have been found, and he expressed doubt that any would ever be discovered.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is concluding a seven-month investigation into pre-war intelligence on Iraq. The panel held a closed-door hearing to consider a draft report, and hopes to hold public hearings about its findings by the end of March.
Senator Roberts said his committee has found no political pressure on intelligence analysts before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
But Democrats on the committee say they believe the Bush administration may have pressured the CIA to manipulate intelligence to make the case for war.
"I think the whole question of the use of intelligence by policy-makers, they are after all the ones who make the decision on whether to go to war or not, not the intelligence community, is an important matter," said the committee's top Democrat, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.
Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, a Republican member of the Intelligence Committee is furious with Democrats' suggestions that intelligence may have been shaped to justify war. "I think it would be absolutely wrong for anyone to suggest today that we got it all wrong, and that it was President Bush's fault, and certainly, not for anyone to suggest that somehow or other our leadership misled the American people in order to go to war," he said. "That would be the absolute height of irresponsibility."
The Intelligence Committee is to meet again next Thursday.