Tue, Feb 03, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Bush to order inquiry on Iraq intelligence

AP , WASHINGTON

President George W. Bush, under mounting political pressure, will sign an executive order to establish a full-blown investigation of US intelligence failures in Iraq, a senior White House official said.

The investigation will look at what the US believed it knew before the war against Saddam Hussein's regime and what has been determined since the invasion. Former chief weapons inspector David Kay has concluded that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction, a chief rationale for the US-led war.

The investigation will examine not only Iraq but also intelligence issues dealing with stateless groups such as terrorists and secretive regimes such as North Korea, the official said on Sunday, on condition of anonymity. Given the broad mandate of the investigation, it is not likely to be completed before the November elections. Bush had resisted an investigation of Iraq intelligence but agreed to an inquiry amid growing pressure.

Lawmakers from both parties say the US' credibility has been undermined by uncertainty over flawed intelligence that led the US into war in Iraq. Republicans joined Democrats in calling for an investigation.

"I don't see there's any way around it," Senator Chuck Hagel, a senior Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday on CNN TV.

"We need to open this up in a very nonpartisan, outside commission, to see where we are," Hagel said. The issue is not just shortcomings of US intelligence, he said, but "the credibility of who we are around the world and the trust of our government and our leaders."

Senator Trent Lott, another top Republican on the committee, told Fox TV that he may be willing to go along with an independent commission because "I think we have major problems with our intelligence community. I think we need to take a look at a complete overhaul."

By setting up the investigation himself, Bush will have greater control over its membership and mandate. The mandate will be broader than simply what went wrong in Iraq, the official said. It also will look into issues such as gathering intelligence on stateless regimes, such as al-Qaeda, and weapons proliferation.

There was no indication when Bush would sign the order creating the panel.

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