A lawmaker heading a congressional investigation of pre-Iraq war intelligence says he considers the question of whether the Bush administration deliberately manipulated information to support its case to be a "dead issue."
Porter Goss, a Republican congressman who co-chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke after a meeting in which Republican House lawmakers discussed recent developments in the controversy over pre-war intelligence.
These include the final assessment of David Kay, who until recently headed the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, President Bush's decision to appoint a special commission, and the recent statement by CIA Director George Tenet.
Congressman Goss says evidence he has seen so far in the committee's investigation supports the administration case that Saddam Hussein had the capability and intention to develop weapons of mass destruction.
As for continuing allegations about administration manipulation, Mr. Goss calls this "a dead issue that ought to be left alone unless there is new evidence."
"There has been absolutely no evidence that the intelligence was manipulated, distorted or in any way shaped or morphed to suit a pre-ordained purposes, it's just not there," he said.
The House Intelligence Committee is due to issue its own report in coming months. However, Congressman Goss refused to say when that will be.
As Mr. Goss was speaking with reporters, Secretary of State Colin Powell, in testimony to the House International Relations Committee, was giving a strong defense of administration handling of intelligence. "I don't think we have anything to be apologetic about and under no set of circumstances do I believe anybody in America should think that the president 'cooked the books' or in some way tried to mislead them," he said.
In his remarks to reporters, Congressman Porter Goss echoed complaints by other Republicans that Democrats are trying to use the intelligence issue as a weapon in this election year.
"We are operating in an atmosphere surrounding us which is clearly getting more partisan every day and it is very, very hard to operate as an isolated cell within an atmosphere where all of the questions, all of the energies, all of the attention, seem to be driven by partisan agendas," he said.
Congressman Goss says intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq war can be traced to cutbacks in resources for the U.S. intelligence community, particularly in human intelligence.
He says the process of determining why no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq is not yet complete, but investigations need to answer two key questions: "Why?" and "What happened?"