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Verbal Battles Continue Over US Intelligence Document

Democrats and Republicans in Congress continue to spar over the controversy sparked by a leaked U.S. intelligence document that describes the Iraq war as having increased the threat of terrorism. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, Democratic House leaders failed in an attempt to call an unusual secret session to discuss the report, key conclusions of which have now been released by the White House.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came to the House floor to call for the special secret session.

"[To call for a] secret session on the reported intelligence assessment that the war in Iraq is hindering our global efforts against terrorism," she said.

"Persuant to clause nine of rule 17 of the House of Representatives, Ms. Pelosi moves that the House be cleared of all persons except the members, delegates, resident commissioner and officers of the House to consider communications which she believes should be kept secret for the present," said the House clerk.

The move underscores the heated political atmosphere in which the National Intelligence Estimate document emerged, first in a report by The New York Times, days before lawmakers adjourn to prepare for mid-term elections.

Republicans accuse Democrats of playing politics with national security by highlighting limited portions of the intelligence report.

In announcing declassification of the report's key conclusions, President Bush asserted that those who leaked it did so for political purposes.

The Democratic maneuver was voted down by the Republican-controlled House 217 to 171. Shortly after the vote, Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert came to the microphone and expressed his support for making key parts of the document public.

"You know, people leaked [that] information out, so you ought to focus, instead of hearing [the] 'improper' or [drawing judgments on] leaked information, [you] ought to see the whole truth," he said.

Appearing at the same podium seconds later, Democrat Congressman Ike Skelton said the report is proof Bush administration strategies in Iraq exacerbated the threat of terrorism and weakened the U.S. military.

"The question before us is are we safer for our efforts in Iraq? We are not," he said.

The director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, has denied the intelligence report findings show the Iraq war increased terrorist threats, saying the document was a broad assessment of global threats.

But Democrats such as Jane Harman point to a sentence in a Negroponte speech Monday as supporting what they and other critics have been saying about administration policy.

"Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, said in a speech last night, quote: 'The Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives' unquote," she said. "This is an acknowledgement that the Iraq war, contrary to the president's assertions, has failed to make us safer."

The Democrats did not mention another part of Negroponte's speech, in which he said that the failure of jihadists in Iraq, or a perception of failure, would mean fewer fighters being recruited, underscoring the importance of the outcome there.

With mid-term elections coming in November, Republicans are urging Americans not to jump to conclusions based on portions of the intelligence report known so far. However, Democrats are seeking full declassification of the report, saying voters deserve to see it in its entirety so they can make judgments about U.S. efforts in Iraq.