The Bush administration has released parts of a previously secret government assessment of the war on terror. It says the conflict in Iraq has become both a cause and a recruiting tool for terrorists.
The document has intensified the ongoing debate in Washington over the link between Iraq and the war on terror.
Unauthorized excerpts appeared Sunday in major American newspapers. President Bush said those excerpts were taken out of context and, in a highly unusual move, ordered his Director of National Intelligence, to make key parts of the document public.
"John Negroponte, the DNI, is going to declassify the document as quickly as possible," said President Bush. "He is going to declassify the key judgments for you to read yourself. And he will do so in such a way that we will be able to protect sources and methods that our intelligence community uses."
Hours later, Negroponte's office posted a key portion of the National Intelligence Estimate on its website - roughly 3.5 pages of the 30-page report.
White House officials say this section contains the key findings of the document - a compilation of data and analysis from all 16 U.S. government intelligence agencies.
It says the turmoil in Iraq is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives. It calls the Iraq war a 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world, and cultivating supporters for a growing global jihadist movement.
White House officials stress the document also says that promoting freedom and democracy in the region could alleviate some of the grievances militants exploit. They say it bolsters their case that victory over extremists in Iraq is essential, noting the report says the militants know if they lose on Iraqi soil, their movement will be severely wounded.
The report - the first of its kind since the start of the war in Iraq in 2003 - was completed in April. Speaking at a news conference with visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai, President Bush criticized those who gave unauthorized excerpts of the classified document to reporters
Mr. Bush said the timing of the disclosures to the media is suspicious, noting stories appeared in print weeks before elections in November that will determine which political party controls the U.S. congress.
"And here we are coming down the stretch in an election campaign and it is on the front page of your newspapers," he said. "Isn't that interesting? Somebody has taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes."
The president has long maintained that the war in Iraq has made the United States safer. But critics of his Iraq policy say the National Intelligence Estimate provides proof that the war has worsened terrorism.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats went before reporters after the Bush-Karzai meeting at the White House to talk about Iraq. Senator Hillary Clinton - a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee - said the president's war policy is flawed.
"The Bush-Cheney administration has stretched our military to the brink, stretched the facts to fit their ideology, and stretched the patience of the American people with rhetoric instead of results," said Hillary Clinton.
A short time later, Democrats called on the House of Representatives to go into an unusual closed door session to review the National Intelligence Estimate. Their request was rejected in a vote that split almost exactly along party lines, with all but two of the Democrats voting for the motion and all but one of the majority Republicans voting "no."