Two days before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell made his presentation to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, he briefed a group of former senior government officials on the highlights of his testimony, participants said.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who was host of the lunch in his Pentagon office, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and deputy director of the CIA John McLaughlin also participated in the briefing, which lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes, participants said.
Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) had requested that Powell brief the Senate on his testimony before he left for New York on Tuesday, but was rebuffed. The White House agreed to have President Bush discuss Powell's testimony with a select group of lawmakers on Wednesday morning, hours before Powell's address.
The attendees at the Pentagon briefing included former secretaries of state Henry A. Kissinger and Madeleine K. Albright, former defense secretaries Robert S. McNamara and Frank C. Carlucci, former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and William P. Clark and former CIA director William H. Webster. A Pentagon official said all the former officials were invited.
Brzezinski said the briefing "was to some extent a preview, with some additional discussion." He said that Powell showed some of the material he displayed at the United Nations, but not all of it. "I was surprised they spent so much time with us," he said. "It was appreciated."
Webster said Powell, Rice and Rumsfeld appeared to want input from the former officials on how to present the material, since they were concerned about the best ways to get the American public to support the administration's Iraq policy.
A senior State Department official said the meeting was Rumsfeld's idea, as part of an effort to reach out to opinion-makers, but was "not a dry run" of Powell's presentation. The former officials would likely have been asked questions by the media after Powell spoke, he said, and the session was designed "to bring them up to speed."
The official said that since Powell's presentation was not completed until Tuesday at midnight, it wasn't possible to brief lawmakers earlier. He added that much of the information provided by Powell appeared regularly in classified briefings to Congress, so it shouldn't have been "too much of a surprise."