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Panel Criticizes CIA for Incorrect Iraq Intelligence

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 511-page report, which was partly edited for security reasons, criticized the intelligence community for numerous failures in their reporting on alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons have been found.

The report said conclusions in an October 2002 report on Iraq’s weapons programs “either overstated or were not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting. A series of failures, particularly in analytical trade craft, led to the mischaracterization of the intelligence.”

The chairman of the committee, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told reporters that assessments of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapon capabilities and reports that Saddam’s regime could make a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade were wrong.

Roberts said the intelligence community suffered from “collective group think” when it reached conclusions about Iraq’s weapons programs.

“This ‘group think’ caused the community to interpret ambiguous evidence, such as the procurement of dual-use technology, as conclusive evidence of the existence of WMD programs,” he told reporters.

But Roberts added that the problems reached beyond the CIA and other American agencies, calling the Iraq situation “a global intelligence failure.”

The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, told reporters, “tragically, the intelligence failures set forth in this report will affect our national security for generations to come. Our credibility is diminished. Our standing in the world has never been lower. We have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before.”

Rockefeller went on to question the Bush administration for using the faulty information to make its case for military action against Iraq.

“The administration at all levels, and to some extent us, used bad information to bolster its case for war. And we in Congress would not have authorized that war, we would not have authorized that war, with 75 votes, if we knew what we know now,” he said.

President Bush relied on U.S. intelligence suggesting that Iraq was aggressively pursuing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs as a key justification for his decision to go to war in 2003.

White House spokesman, Scott McClellan said the committee’s report essentially “agrees with what we have said, which is we need to take steps to continue strengthening and reforming our intelligence capabilities so we are prepared to meet the new threats that we face in this day and age.”

The report said it found no evidence that administration officials pressured agencies to change their judgments on Iraq weapons programs.

“The committee did not find any evidence that administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities,” it said.

However, Rockefeller said that he thought the report used too narrow a definition of pressure, and said the “cascade of ominous statements” about Iraq, including assertions about its links to al-Qaida, created an “ambiance” that pressured analysts. He also told reporters that the ombudsman of the Central Intelligence Agency cited pressure in the form of “hammering on analysts was greater than he had seen in his 32 years of service.”

Over Democratic objections, the committee decided to delay a second report on how the Bush administration used the intelligence until after the presidential election.

“There is a real frustration over what is not in this report … after the analysts and the intelligence community produced an intelligence product, how is it then shaped or used or misused by the policy-makers?” Rockefeller asked.

The report accused departing CIA Director George Tenet of skewing advice to top policy-makers and elbowing out dissenting views from other intelligence agencies overseen by the State and Defense departments.

Intelligence analysts ignored or discounted conflicting information because of their assumptions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the report said.

The report said the CIA had no human intelligence sources in Iraq after U.N. inspectors left in 1998. It also reported that U.S. agencies relied too heavily on Iraqi exiles, who were eager to see the United States invade their country, and foreign intelligence services for information, but were unable to check the reliability of such reports.

The panel also found fixing the problems uncovered in their investigation will be difficult because many of them stem from a “broken corporate culture and poor management, and will not be solved by additional funding and personnel.”

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