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Tenet: Intelligence on Iraq Not Manipulated - 2004-03-09

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency says he does not believe the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to justify the war in Iraq. CIA Director George Tenet appeared before a Senate panel Tuesday.

Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts asked Mr. Tenet if he challenged administration officials when they portrayed the threat posed by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime as more serious than CIA reports had suggested. "When you see this intelligence you provide being misrepresented, misstated by the highest authorities, when do you say 'no'?" asked the senator.

"I am not going to sit here today and tell you what my action was and what I did or did not do," responded the CIA director, "except that you have to have the confidence to know that when I believed that somebody was misconstruing intelligence I said something about it. I do not stand up in public and do it."

In his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr. Tenet said he did not believe the administration manipulated intelligence to make a case for war, as many Democrats have argued.

Mr. Tenet was joined by Defense Intelligence Agency Director, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby. Under questioning from Senator Elizabeth Dole, a North Carolina Republican, both men denied they were pressured by administration officials to shape intelligence:

"Were either of you under any pressure in any way to filter intelligence prior to the war in Iraq?" she asked. "No ma'am," they each replied in turn.

The administration had cited Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as a key reason for going to war, although none has been found.

Former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay, in an appearance before the Armed Services Committee in January, blamed faulty intelligence for the failure to find any weapons.

Mr. Tenet defended his department's analysts and said it is premature to make judgments about the accuracy of pre-war intelligence. A U.S. team is continuing the search for weapons in Iraq.

Asked about the current situation in Iraq, Mr. Tenet said U.S. and coalition troops increasingly are under assault from insurgent elements determined to disrupt the transfer of power to local authorities.

He said the attacks appear to be the work of remnant elements of former leader Saddam Hussein's government, including party officials, military intelligence and security officers. "Their goal is clear: to inspire an Islamic extremist insurgency that would threaten coalition forces and put a halt to the long term process of building democratic institutions and governance in Iraq," stressed Mr. Tenet. "They hope for a Taleban-like enclave in Iraq's Sunni heartland that would be a jihadists' safe-haven."

At the end of the public hearing, the Armed Services Committee went into closed session to discuss classified matters with Mr. Tenet.