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CIA Director Gives Closed-Door Testimony to US Lawmakers on Iraq Intelligence - 2003-07-16


The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, was expected to face tough questions about pre-war intelligence on Iraq's weapons program before a Senate panel Wednesday.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike on the Senate Intelligence Committee have a number questions for Director Tenet.

Of particular interest is a now discredited statement in President Bush's State of the Union address last January in which Mr. Bush said Iraq sought uranium from Africa. It was part of the President's argument for going to war in Iraq.

Mr. Tenet has taken responsibility for the statement.

Republicans want to know why the CIA did not do more to bar the statement from Mr. Bush's January address. Mr. Tenet had been involved in getting a reference to the faulty uranium matter taken out of a speech the President delivered in Ohio in October. Lawmakers are eager to know why the reference reappeared in the State of the Union address.

Democrats wonder if someone at the White House pressed for inclusion of the reference on African uranium in the State of the Union speech, knowing it was based on false intelligence, in order to exaggerate the threat as the president sought support for going to war.

Democrats say the president should be held accountable. Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who is seeking his party's nomination for president next year, spoke to reporters before he went into the closed hearing.

"I have some very serious questions about what I think are the most important issues there could be: The credibility of the president of the United States. When the president speaks, he speaks on behalf of the American people," he said. "George Tenet has accepted responsibility, and that is good. But at the end of the day, when the president of the United States speaks, he has to take responsibility for what he says."

But two other Democratic presidential candidates are holding Mr. Tenet accountable, and are asking him to resign.

Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a supporter of the war in Iraq, and former Vermont governor Howard Dean, an opponent of the war, each are calling for the CIA director to step aside.

President Bush has blamed the CIA for the faulty statement on uranium, but has expressed his confidence in Mr. Tenet.