And it described how the CIA failed to tell then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell before his showdown presentation to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 that a key allegation was provided by a single Iraqi source nicknamed "Curveball" whose credibility had been undercut. The analysts who helped prepare Powell's speech were unaware that, as the report puts it, Curveball was "lying."
The report expressed particular concern that the nation's intelligence agencies are not adequately focusing on biological weapons. It said U.S. forces in Afghanistan discovered that al Qaeda's bioweapons research was "further along" than U.S. intelligence had known, particularly involving a pathogen the commission referred to only as "Agent X."
President Bush joins former senator Charles S. Robb, left, and Judge Laurence H. Silberman, at a news conference announcing the panel's findings.
(Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
Video: President Bush discusses the release of the commission's report.
Transcript: Text of Bush's Thursday press conference with commission co-chairs.
Transcript: The Post's Dana Priest discusses the WMD commission's report.
_____White House Briefing_____
Columnist Dan Froomkin's report about the WMD Commission.
"The program was extensive, well-organized, and operated for two years before September 11" at sites containing commercial equipment and run by "individuals with special training," the report noted. Based on what they found in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence theorized that al Qaeda "had acquired several biological agents possibly as early as 1999, and had the necessary equipment to enable limited, basic production of Agent X."
Bioweapons specialists said Agent X most likely referred to a strain of anthrax. U.S. officials have said that al Qaeda conducted research on anthrax at an Afghan facility called Tarnak Farm, some of it by Yazid Sufaat, a Malaysian bioscientist trained in California and now in detention in Malaysia.
The commission expressed concern that intelligence agencies may still be misjudging situations in North Korea and Iran; however, the section of the report dealing with those countries remained classified.
"The bad news is that we still know disturbingly little about the weapons programs and even less about the intentions of many of our most dangerous adversaries," the panel said in a cover letter to Bush.
For all of the technical challenges facing the intelligence community, the commission linked its overall problem to management. "They're still in some respects fighting the last war," said Robb, referring to the Cold War. "The enemy has changed dramatically."
The panel proposed empowering the new director of national intelligence, a position created by legislation last year, to better integrate the collection efforts of the government's 15 intelligence agencies at the CIA, Pentagon, State Department, Energy Department and FBI. But it also urged that analysts remain diversified at those agencies so they can carry on what the commission hopes will be a more lively debate about interpretations.
The panel suggested a variety of reorganizations, including the creation of a Human Intelligence Directorate within the CIA to oversee increased overseas spying by the agency's Directorate of Operations as well as the Pentagon and FBI. It also proposed merging the FBI's counterintelligence and counterterrorism divisions with its new intelligence division into a new National Security Service within the bureau. The new service would report to both the FBI director and the national intelligence director.
The report suggested several other new institutions as well, including a National Counter Proliferation Center to coordinate the fight against weapons of mass destruction; a National Intelligence University to enhance tradecraft training; a long-term analysis unit to escape the pressures of day-to-day intelligence collection; an Open Source Directorate to focus on finding publicly available information, particularly on the Internet; and a nonprofit research institute outside the intelligence community to encourage dissenting views.
The panel also recommended changes to the intelligence reports Bush gets that are known as the presidential daily briefing. Leading up to the Iraq war, the panel found, the briefings were "disastrously one-sided" and "more alarmist and less nuanced" than longer studies, such as the National Intelligence Estimates. The daily briefings never cast doubt on prior information provided to Bush and thus "seemed to be 'selling' intelligence in order to keep its customers, or at least the First Customer, interested."
The panel called for toning down headlines in the briefings and limiting their content to intelligence that "requires high-level attention." It also recommended that the new intelligence director -- John D. Negroponte is awaiting Senate confirmation -- oversee the production of the briefings but not prepare them or even go the White House each morning to present them, because it would consume too much of his time.
Staff writers Charles Babington and John Mintz contributed to this report.