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CIA Director to Face Lawmakers' Questions on Iraq - 2004-02-24

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, is expected to face tough questioning from Democrats Tuesday when he appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee. It will be Mr. Tenet's first appearance before Congress since former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay blamed faulty intelligence for the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

On the eve of Mr. Tenet's testimony, a key Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, renewed accusations that the CIA Director misled Congress about Iraq's weapons before the United States went to war.

Mr. Levin said that in response to his repeated requests, the CIA last month declassified the number of top suspect weapons sites given to the United Nations. He said the information showed that 21 of the 105 high and medium priority suspect sites on the CIA list were not shared with UN inspectors.

A spokesman for the CIA told the Washington Post newspaper that the agency "shared the best and most likely information" with the United Nations. But he could not explain why the 21 sites were not shared with UN inspectors before the war began.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Senator Levin suggested that had Mr. Tenet acknowledged a year ago that not all known weapons sites had been shared with the United Nations, it would have "put an obstacle in the path of the administration's move to end U.N. inspections and proceed to war."

"The CIA did not share all of the top suspect WMD [weapons of mass destruction] sites in Iraq that Director Tenet said twice publicly before the war, that it had shared with U.N. inspectors," he said. "It is more evidence of the shaping of intelligence to fit the administration's policy objectives."

Democrats have accused the administration of manipulating intelligence on Iraq's weapons to make the case for war.

But former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay, in testimony to Congress last month, said intelligence analysts were never under political pressure to support going to war. He blamed faulty intelligence for the failure to find weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Levin renewed Democrats' calls for an independent commission appointed by Congress to examine pre-war intelligence, saying the panel established by President Bush cannot be objective.

"What is badly needed, and what is lacking so far, is candor about how we were so far off in the assessments of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Mr. Tenet will be joined at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing by the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller.