The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday worked out a tentative arrangement for pursuing its inquiry into how the Bush administration publicly portrayed the intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, with Democrats saying they expected some officials to be called to testify before the review is completed.
"There is a new resolution of the way we are going," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said yesterday after the committee met in closed session for 90 minutes. Feinstein is one of six committee members charged with resolving differences over how to proceed with the "phase two" inquiry.
The first phase, completed last year, focused on the quality of prewar intelligence, not on how officials used the information. "It is uncertain how long it will take, but the process will be similar to our phase one inquiry," she said, which involved closed hearings and multiple draft reports before being completed.
The most contentious part of the second phase -- comparing public officials' prewar statements to the intelligence available at the time -- has for now been turned over to the committee staff for additional work. The staff has been directed to collect major statements about Iraq's weapons programs by administration officials and members of Congress, as well as any relevant intelligence circulating at the time, whether it supported or undercut the statements, officials said.
"We want to look at all the intelligence community work and see how it was used," Feinstein said. Under the original plan of Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the process was to have been simpler: Statements were to be analyzed to see only if there was intelligence that substantiated them, without looking at contrary intelligence.
One example of the work ahead, Feinstein said, would be analyzing President Bush's statement in his 2003 State of the Union address saying the British government had learned that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa.
"We are not looking to place blame," Feinstein said, "but if the president said something like the 16 words on uranium, somebody put them in there, and we want to know what [intelligence] there was before" the speechwriter. She suggested that Robert Joseph, then the National Security Council staff member supervising preparation of the Iraq weapons material in the speech and now undersecretary of state for arms control, might be the type of witness called to testify.
As another example of what she thought should be covered, Feinstein pointed to intelligence covered in then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's Feb. 5, 2003, speech to the U.N. Security Council. He mentioned reports of several Iraqi programs -- later proved incorrect -- including allegations that Iraq had mobile factories for making biological agents, which came from a source known as "Curveball" who had been flagged by a CIA station chief as unreliable. "There was discrediting information in the mill at the time, and we want to find what went to Powell," Feinstein said.
Yesterday, senators were given classified staff drafts of two other sections of what will be a five-part phase two study. One was to compare the prewar assessments of Iraq's weapons programs, and its relations with al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, to what was found on both subjects after the war. The second was to compare prewar assessments of what postwar Iraq would look like with the reality that has emerged.
The committee is not scheduled to meet again until next week. After that, sessions will be held as needed, with members and staff not expecting to be finished until next year.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said yesterday, "We have a bit more direction today than before, but . . . there is still a long way to go."