A senior Defense Department official has rejected suggestions the Pentagon manipulated intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs and its links to terrorism to justify a war.
Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith was blunt in explaining why he called an unusual news conference at the Pentagon Wednesday morning.
"The reason that we were interested in meeting with you this morning is to help lay to rest some stories that have been circulating about the Defense Department that are not true and are beginning to achieve the status of urban legends," he said.
Key among the issues Mr. Feith sought to address were the judgments made by a special Pentagon intelligence analysis unit regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
The Bush administration cited Iraq's possession of such weapons as a principal reason for the recent war.
Yet no chemical or biological weapons have been found since the government of Saddam Hussein was ousted from power.
Mr. Feith denied the Pentagon pressured the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence organizations to tailor their findings to conform with the administration's portrait of Iraq as a threat.
"This suggestion that we said to them, 'This is what we're looking for. Go find it,' is precisely the inaccuracy that we are here to rebut," Mr. Feith said.
Mr. Feith's statement follows an earlier defense of the intelligence-gathering and analysis process regarding Iraq by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. George Tenet said in a statement that integrity and objectivity are what he termed the hallmarks of the intelligence profession.
In his appearance at the Pentagon, Mr. Feith also sought to deny what he said were two other misconceptions about U.S. policy. He rejected suggestions the Defense Department is now allegedly intent on toppling the government of Iran.
He also denied the Pentagon wants to ally with the Iraqi-based Iranian opposition group called the Mujahedeen Khalq to help oust religious leaders in Tehran. He said the Pentagon views the group, known as the MEK, as a terrorist organization.