A published report said a U.S. Senate panel is preparing a report blaming intelligence agencies for overstating the threat posed by deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Senate Democrats are seizing on the report as further evidence of what they call the Bush administration's misplaced policy in Iraq.
The Washington Post newspaper said the Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to fault Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet and other intelligence officials for exaggerating prewar evidence about Iraq's weapons program.
The newspaper said the panel is surprised by the amount of circumstantial, single-sourced or disputed information used to prepare key intelligence documents on Iraq. The report said the committee has interviewed more than 100 people from the CIA and other agencies.
The Republican chairman of the committee, Pat Roberts, is quoted as saying the intelligence was sometimes "sloppy" and inconclusive, and he expressed concern about the credibility of the intelligence community.
Senate Democrats say the Washington Post report is further evidence of what they call the administration's misguided war in Iraq.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, said the United States should have been more focused on tracking down Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network, blamed for the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
"I think this morning's report has increasing evidence that it was simply a misplaced priority to attack Iraq rather than keeping our full resources directed at taking down al-Qaida, at holding Osama bin Laden accountable for his vicious attack on this country," Mr. Conrad said.
At the CIA, spokesman Bill Harlow defended his agency. He said it is too early to come to any conclusions about the quality of pre-war intelligence, since efforts to find weapons of mass destruction are, as he put it, "at an early stage."
At the Capitol, meeting with Senate Democrats, the former chief of operations and analysis at the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, Vince Cannistraro, noted that Vice President Dick Cheney had made several visits to the agency before the war. He said such visits could be viewed as attempts to pressure intelligence analysts to find evidence to support the administration's case for war.
But Mr. Cannistraro was reluctant to criticize the agency. "I am not making any judgment about how the CIA's job was done, how professional it was. But it was at least an honest attempt," he said. "It may not have been adequate, I do not know. But at least they said what they thought was true, rather than try and just give them what exactly they wanted."
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, wants his panel to look into whether Mr. Cheney, or other White House or Defense Department officials may have had a role in exaggerating the threat from Iraq.
"There seems to me to be a very clear, clear effort made to blame everything on the intelligence community, and steer by all means away from anything that has anything to do with anybody in the administration at higher-up levels or elsewhere," Mr. Rockefeller said.
Senator Rockefeller told The Washington Post his committee's report on pre-war intelligence on Iraq is in a "preliminary stage" and would not likely be completed until the end of the year.