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CONSORTIUM NEWS - Edited by Robert Parry


May 29, 2003

Congress Calls on CIA to 'Reevaluate' Iraq Intel

'US intelligence comes under fire' (5/24/03 - Agence France-Presse via

[Read the source...]

US intelligence comes under fire
May 24, 2003

Washington - US spy agencies have come under scrutiny for their role in the invasion of Iraq, amid charges of poor performance and even political manipulation of information.

Congress has asked the CIA to "re-evaluate" the quality of US intelligence on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and on that country's links with the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

"It is now time to re-evaluate US intelligence regarding the amount or existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that country's linkages to terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda," members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence told CIA director George Tenet in a letter on Friday.

"The committee wants to ensure that the intelligence analysis relayed to our policymakers from the intelligence community was accurate, unbiased and timely," said the letter, signed by committee vice-chairman Porter Goss, a Republican, and committee member Jane Harman, a California Democrat.

The letter, a copy of which was furnished to AFP, asked Tenet to respond by July 1 to these points:

- Was the gathered intelligence sufficient in quantity and quality?

- Were the sources of the intelligence reliable?

- How was the intelligence analysed and disseminated?

- Were divergent analyses taken into account, or swept aside, and, in the latter case, why?

The query came after The New York Times revealed on Thursday that Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had in October asked the CIA to compare the quality of intelligence collected by various agencies, amid diverging assessments of Iraq coming from the State Department, the Pentagon and the CIA itself.

US and British forces have not yet found any WMDs in Iraq, nor have they established certain links between the former regime of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, the two main premises on which Washington and London justified their invasion of Iraq.

"Since some questions have been raised and it is taking a long time to find out about the WMDs, we think it is prudent to ask," said Harman, ranking Democrat on the committee.

Several critics have suggested that President George W. Bush and the Pentagon cooked intelligence on Iraq's possession of WMDs to support an invasion.

"This could conceivably be the greatest intelligence hoax of all time," said Harman. "I doubt it, but we have to ask."

In the Senate, as well, Democrats were attacking US intelligence services, with Senator John Rockefeller of West Virginia calling the CIA's performance in the Iraq affair "wholly unimpressive."

Rockefeller called for internal investigations by the Pentagon and CIA into false documents used by the Bush government to show that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger for its nuclear programme.

In early March, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), raised a mini-scandal when he told the United Nations that documents indicating an attempted uranium purchase were not authentic.

The US government was forced to admit the documents were false, but denied any role in their fabrication.

A month earlier, an official British report on Iraq's alleged efforts to conceal weapons of mass destruction was shown to be in part a crude plagiarism of a paper by a California student based on information from 1991.

"There is no question there was a lot of pressure on analysts to support preconceived judgments," a US official told the Washington Post daily.

"But the analysts' records is not bad when you consider you have strong policymakers pushing analysts for information that supports their specific views," the official said.

The CIA denied any politicisation of its information-gathering.

"Our role is to call it like we see it, to make clear what we think, what we know and what we don't know. That's the code we live by and that's what policymakers expect from us," said CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield. - Sapa-AFP


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