Report Says CIA Distorted Iraq Data
The committee, however, noted that an unclassified White Paper issued in 1998 "contained other words which expressed the uncertainty behind the IC [intelligence community] judgments without using the word 'we.' " For example, it referred to world experts and said "they believe" or "the evidence strongly suggests" and "Iraq could."
A particularly controversial section of the NIE was the debate over Iraq's attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuge rotors as part of its nuclear program. The classified version for lawmakers noted that the Department of Energy, the government's best experts on nuclear technology, "assesses that the tubes probably are not part of the [nuclear] program."
The unclassified White Paper said only: "Most intelligence specialists assess this to be the intended use, but some believe that these tubes are probably intended for conventional weapons programs."
Eliminating the names of the dissenting agencies or excluding dissent altogether, as the paper did on the issue of whether Iraq was developing unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver lethal agents abroad, "provided readers with an incomplete picture of the nature and extent of the debate within the Intelligence Community regarding these issues," the Senate report said.
The NIE assembled the analyses of several U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Energy Department's intelligence unit, which monitors nuclear matters. It was the most extensive intelligence assessment of Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs to be made public in several years.
The CIA began work on a public document after the agency's deputy director at the time, John E. McLaughlin, attended a White House meeting at which National Security Council deputies requested such a paper. Work on the document began in May 2002, months before the classified NIE was requested by the Senate intelligence committee.
Then-CIA Director George J. Tenet resisted producing the NIE for Congress. Had the classified version not been produced, it would have been much more difficult to detect the distortions between what the intelligence community believed in private, and what it gave to the public.
When the public White Paper version was released in October, it sparked strong protests from Democrats on the Senate intelligence panel who had the classified version. They believed the public document slanted the case toward the administration's view of the Iraqi threat. In particular, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), the panel's chairman at the time, pushed the CIA to declassify more information.
Four days later, Tenet, in a letter to the committee, released more information. Among the new items: The CIA believed that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would be unlikely to initiate a chemical or biological attack against the United States unless provoked by U.S. military actions.
"Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred," he might launch a chemical-biological counterattack, Tenet's letter said.
Hussein also might "decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamist terrorists in conducting a WMD [weapons of mass destruction] attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."
The CIA also declassified other elements of analysis that seem to back up the president's assertion that Iraq has active ties to al Qaeda -- a growing feature of the administration's case for considering military action. Among the intelligence assessments linking Iraq to al Qaeda is "credible reporting" that the group's "leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities," according to the letter. The Senate's request and Tenet's letter came when an increasing number of intelligence officials, including former and current intelligence agency employees, were concerned the agency was tailoring its public stance to fit the administration's views.
Yesterday, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," the Senate committee's chairman, Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), said that had Congress known before the vote to go to war what his committee has since discovered about the intelligence on Iraq, "I doubt if the votes would have been there."
Roberts characterized some of the redacted parts of the Senate report as "specific details that would make your eyebrows even raise higher."
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