A U.S. Senate panel Friday opened hearings on an internal Defense Department report criticizing the intelligence work on Iraq by senior civilian officials before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Defense Department's acting inspector general, Thomas Gimble, said the conclusion reached in 2002 by former undersecretary for policy Douglas Feith that there were ties between Iraq and al-Qaida was not supported by the intelligence community.
"We found that the office of the undersecretary of defense for policy developed, produced and disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on Iraq-al Qaida relations, which included conclusions inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community, and these were presented to senior decision makers," he said.
Democrats, who have long accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence to make the case for war, reacted strongly to the report.
"The inspector general's report is a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities by the DoD policy office that helped take this nation to war," said Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Under questioning by Republicans, Inspector General Gimble acknowledged that the activities of the Pentagon's policy office were not illegal or unauthorized, although he did describe them as inappropriate.
But Republicans argued that the policy office's work analyzing intelligence gathered by intelligence agencies was very appropriate.
Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, made the point as an anti-war protester sought to disrupt the proceedings.
"There is a group of people who think there were staffers that were part of some cabal to start a war for oil or some such thing as that, and were not committed to the decency of America, and try to make this country better, and that they cooked up all of this stuff," he said. "I think your report shows that that is absolutely untrue. There was basis on which these issues were raised, these issues are often in dispute and difficult to know what the real facts are."
At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino said President Bush has revamped the intelligence community to ensure that flawed intelligence does not impact policy decisions again.