to Investigate Iraq Intelligence||
The issue of what the United States knew about prewar Iraq returns to the forefront
as President Bush announces an inquiry into faulty intelligence.
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On Monday President Bush said he would call for an independent, bipartisan
commission to investigate intelligence failures in Iraq but defended his decision
to go to war.
"I want all the
facts. We do know that Saddam Hussein had the intent and capabilities to cause
great harm, we know he was a danger.
He slaughtered thousands of people,"
the president said.
The president's decision comes after rising pressure from both Democrats and
Republicans to respond to information suggesting that the agencies charged with
spying on other countries overstated
Iraq's stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
Last week, former
chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay told Congress that prewar weapons intelligence
assessments on Iraq, which led to the American invasion, was flawed.
view was that the best evidence that I had seen was that Iraq indeed had weapons
of mass destruction. It turns out we were all wrong, probably, in my judgment,
and that is most disturbing," Kay said.
During the hearing Kay also
urged Congress to begin an investigation into why the intelligence in Iraq was
"It's really up to you and your staff on behalf of the American
people to take on that challenge. It's not something that anyone from the outside
can do. I do believe we have to understand why reality turned out to be different
than expectations and estimate," Kay added.
President Bush's decision, which reverses his earlier opposition to a probe,
also follows attacks by Democrats, including the leading presidential candidate,
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.
Kerry has said Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick
Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell chose intelligence that supported their
case against Saddam Hussein, "misleading" Congress during the debate
over whether to authorize military action against Iraq.
The president did
not set a timetable for the investigation, but the findings are not expected until
after the presidential elections in November.
By establishing the commission himself, President Bush will have greater control
over its membership and mandate, which according
to White House officials, will be broad - to examine America's "global security
challenges of the 21st century."
In addition to examining the possible
misjudgments in Iraq, the panel will examine problems in gathering information
in such secretive regimes as North Korea and Iran as well as stateless groups
such as terrorists.
"What we don't know yet is (reconciling) what we
thought and what the Iraq Survey Group has found, and we want to look at that,"
the president said. "But we also want to look at our war against proliferation
and weapons of mass destruction, kind of in a broader context."
Sunday, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, said that the president
will get commission members from experts who are "very distinguished statesmen
and women, who have served their country and who have been users of intelligence,
or served in a gathering capacity."
intelligence problems |
Problems with intelligence are not new. The United States has faced additional
intelligence shortfalls, most recently in the failure to anticipate the Sept.
11, 2001, attacks.
addition, the United States failed to predict that both Pakistan and India intended
to test nuclear weapons in 1998. The United States was also surprised to learn
after the collapse of the Soviet Union that the Soviet Union was not as economically
sound or powerful as had been thought.
David Kay summed up some of the problems
in intelligence gathering in a discussion with Jim Lehrer on the NewsHour last
"We are not very good as a nation in our intelligence capability
at reading the most fundamental secrets of a society, what are its capabilities,
what are its intentions? You can't photograph those. You need Americans on the
ground penetrating those societies and people who are speaking their languages,"
Annie Schleicher, Online NewsHour
© 2004 MacNeil/Lehrer