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Pres. Bush Forms Bipartisan Iraq Intelligence Review Panel

BY Admin  February 6, 2004 at 4:55 PM EDT

In making the announcement, President Bush noted that former chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay has not been able to confirm prewar intelligence that Iraq possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

“We are determined to figure out why,” the president said. “We’re also determined to make sure that American intelligence is as accurate as possible for every challenge in the future.”

President Bush told reporters he had tapped former Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb and retired judge Laurence Silberman, a Republican, to head the panel.

Robb, a moderate Democrat and former governor of Virginia, has been practicing law since leaving the Senate. Silberman is a conservative who was deputy attorney general in the Nixon and Ford administrations. President Reagan named him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1985.

President Bush directed federal agencies to cooperate with the commission, which is to issue its report by March 31, 2005. The president said he has yet to select the remaining two members of the nine-member panel.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who ran against the president for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000, will also be a member of the commission.

“In our war against terrorism, it is imperative that we guarantee the credibility and effectiveness of our intelligence capabilities,” McCain said in a statement. “I will do my very best to help find the answers that the American people have a right to know.”

President Bush also named Lloyd Cutler, former White House counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton; former federal judge Patricia Wald; Yale University President Richard Levin and Admiral William Studeman, former deputy director of the CIA.

Wald, a former chief judge for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, also served as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Mr. Bush had initially opposed a commission, but agreed to do so after pressure from Republican lawmakers as well as Democrats.

Democrats have argued any commission appointed solely by President Bush could not be considered independent and objective. They have called for an examination not only of the work of intelligence agencies, but also of whether the White House pressured analysts and manipulated data to boost the case for war.

“We have tried, a number of us, for many, many months to get an outside independent commission to look into this [intelligence failure]. There has been resistance by the administration, by the Republican leadership to that outside independent commission. It is the best way that we can get an objective and a bipartisan assessment of the intelligence failures and to what extent there was exaggeration of the intelligence that was given to the policy-makers,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told the NewsHour on Jan. 28.