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Senate Report Says Bush Administration Exaggerated Iraq Threat

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The Democratic-led U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has released a report that finds the Bush administration ignored disagreements about intelligence information in making its case for war in Iraq. Key Republicans are dismissing the report as politically motivated. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, released the report at a news conference Thursday.

"In making the case for war, the administration did go well beyond what the intelligence community knew and what it believed," he said.

The report cites public statements by senior administration officials in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq that were not supported by intelligence available at the time. These include comments alleging ties between Saddam Hussein's government and al-Qaida, and a statement about a meeting between one of the September 11, 2001, hijackers and an Iraqi intelligence operative in Prague in 2001.

The report also finds that U.S. officials failed to take into account internal debate in the intelligence community about the threat posed by Iraq. For example, it says that while some intelligence agencies supported the Bush administration argument that Saddam Hussein's government had been seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, other agencies could not substantiate such claim.

Two Republicans joined majority Democrats in backing the report, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine.

But other Republicans dismissed the findings. Senator Christopher Bond of Missouri is the top Republican on the committee.

"The report released today by the majority is an attempt by my friends on the other side of the aisle to score election year points," he said.

He argued that many of the Democrats who criticized the administration had themselves issued warnings about the threat posed by Iraq ahead of the war.

At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino called the report a "selective view".

"The president and administration officials and the Congress were all working from the same intelligence, and acting on the same information," she said. "When the intelligence community gives you the information, you have an obligation to look at it. Now, is intelligence always going to by 100 percent right in the future? It can't be. It is just not the nature of the way that works. But I do think that we have improved the process so much that it is unlikely that it could ever happen again."

Committee chairman Rockefeller responded.

"We all relied on flawed intelligence, but there is a fundamental difference between relying on incorrect intelligence and deliberately painting a picture to the American people that you know is not fully supported by intelligence," he said.

The report is the fourth and last on Iraq pre-war intelligence to be released by the committee, and echoes previous reports suggesting the administration overstated the threat posed by Iraq.

The committee also released a second report criticizing the Defense Department for not briefing intelligence officials about meetings with an Iranian dissident beginning in 2001.

The dissident, Manucher Ghorbanifar, had used the meetings to press for a change in government in Iran. The Central Intelligence Agency had viewed Ghorbanifar as untrustworthy.

 

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