Fri, Jul 09, 2004 - Page 1 News List

US report on Iraq war intelligence to sidestep Bush


A bipartisan US Senate report to be issued today that is highly critical of prewar intelligence on Iraq will sidestep the question of how the Bush administration used that information to make the case for war, congressional officials said Wednesday. But Democrats are maneuvering to raise the issue in separate statements.

Under a deal reached this year between Republicans and Democrats, the Bush administration's role will not be addressed until the Senate Intelligence Committee completes a further stage of its inquiry, but probably not until after the November election. As a result, the officials said, the committee's initial, unanimous report will focus solely on misjudgments by intelligence agencies, not the White House, in the assessments about Iraq, illicit weapons and al-Qaeda that the administration used as a rationale for the war.

The effect may be to provide an opening for US President George W. Bush and his allies to deflect responsibility for what now appear to be exaggerated prewar assessments about the threat posed by Iraq, by portraying them as the fault of the CIA and its departing chief, George Tenet, rather than Bush and his top aides.

Still, Democrats will try to focus attention on the issue by releasing as many as a half-dozen "additional views" to supplement the bipartisan report.

"How the administration used the intelligence was very troubling," Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, said in an interview this week. "They took a flawed set of intelligence reports and converted it into a rationale for going to war."

The unanimous report by the panel will say there is no evidence that intelligence officials were subjected to pressure to reach particular conclusions about Iraq. That issue had been an early focus of Democrats, but none of the more than 200 intelligence officials interviewed by the panel made such a claim, and the Democrats have recently focused their criticism on the question of whether the intelligence was misused.

The plan to release the Report on Pre-War Intelligence on Iraq today was announced Wednesday by the committee. Congressional officials said the CIA had agreed that most of the report could be made public.

The public version of the report will include more than 80 percent of a classified, 410-page version approved unanimously by the committee, the officials said. A review by the CIA that was completed last month recommended that nearly half of the report be classified. But the panel's Republican and Democratic leaders objected strongly, and they won concessions during negotiations that were completed over the weekend.

The February agreement to divide the inquiry into two parts reflected what both Republicans and Democrats on the committee portrayed as a grudging compromise. Until then, Senator Pat Roberts, the top Republican on the panel, had insisted that the question of how the administration used the intelligence exceeded the committee's scope. Senator Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat, had insisted that the initial inquiry, focusing on the intelligence agencies, be expanded to include the question of whether public statements by government officials had been substantiated by intelligence information.

Both sides say they are committed to completing the second stage of the inquiry as soon as possible. But the committee also plans to begin work on recommendations for broader changes in intelligence agencies to address the shortcomings detailed in the report, leaving little time in an election year to complete an inquiry that would focus on the Bush administration and would almost certainly splinter along party lines.

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