McCain Wants WMD Inquiry
Sen. John McCain
McCain Wants WMD Inquiry
Sat Jan 31 15:35:29 2004

CIA admits lack of specifics on Iraqi weapons before invasion

McCain Wants WMD Inquiry -
By CBS News/Associated Press
Friday 30 January 2004

Parting company with many of his fellow Republicans, Sen. John McCain said Thursday he wants an independent commission to take a sweeping look at recent intelligence failures.

The White House has dismissed the proposal, saying the CIA is committed to reviewing the intelligence behind claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration also argues that the weapons search is not yet complete.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has expressed frustration with those who suggest an outside investigation is needed before his committee has a chance to complete an inquiry now underway. Senate Armed Service Chairman John Warner, R-Va., supports letting the committee finish its work.

In an interview with The Associated Press, McCain said he believes the public needs an assessment that won't be clouded by partisan division. The Arizona senator said he is seeking a full-scale look not only at apparently botched intelligence on Iraq's weapons capabilities, but also flawed estimations of Iraq, North Korea and Libya and the faulty assessments from other Western intelligence services.

"I am absolutely convinced that one is necessary," McCain said, "because this is a very serious issue and we need to not only know what happened, but know what steps are necessary to prevent the United States from ever being misinformed again."

McCain's comments come less than one week after the CIA's lead weapons inspector, David Kay, left his position and began stating publicly that purported weapons of mass destruction didn't exist.

The House and Senate intelligence committees that have been looking into the issue for the past seven months have unearthed failures in prewar intelligence similar to those identified by Kay, The Washington Post reported Friday.

The newspaper quoted unidentified congressional officials as saying the committees believe CIA analysts never seriously considered the possibility that Saddam no longer possessed weapons of mass destruction.

But Republicans and Democrats on the two intelligence committees disagree over whether the fault lies with the analysts or with the policymakers that used murky intelligence as a basis for war.

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. John Edwards, Sen. John Kerry, and Howard Dean also called for an independent investigation during a debate held Thursday in South Carolina.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice reiterated that opposition Thursday, saying on national television that existing efforts to learn the extent of Saddam's weapons arsenal are sufficient while downplaying the discrepancy between prewar intelligence and what has (or hasn't) been found in Iraq.

"I think that what we have is evidence that there are differences between what we knew going in and what we found on the ground. That's not surprising. " National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on CBS News' Early Show. "In a country that was as closed and secretive as Iraq, a country that was doing everything that it could to deceive the United Nations, to deceive the world. I would remind people that in Libya and Iran, we have found we probably significantly underestimated the significance of those weapons of mass destruction programs. So in part, this is a problem of dealing with very closed societies that are doing everything that they can to hide the extent and nature of their programs."

When asked on NBC's Today Show if she thought Americans have a legitimate concern about whether intelligence was manipulated to justify the decision to go to war, Rice replied, "The president's judgment to go to the war was based on the fact that Saddam Hussein for 12 years had defied U.N. resolutions" regarding his stock of weapons.

She added that the administration went to war, because Saddam "had been considered a danger for a long time and it was time to take care of that danger."

In a speech in Merrimack, N.H. on Thursday, Mr. Bush called the invasion of Iraq a "war for our security" and said he welcomed a debate over his reasons for launching the war, in which at least 519 Americans have died.

"We'll debate about the decision, and I look forward to those discussions with the American people," Mr. Bush said. "I'm absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do. And I look forward to explaining it clearly to the American people."

Kay and some Democrats, including Senate minority leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., have also stated the need for an outside investigation into the intelligence community. Along with the Senate inquiry, several retired intelligence officers have delivered a review to CIA Director George Tenet on the performance of the CIA and other agencies.

McCain, who was one of the loudest voices in a successful campaign to form a commission on the Sept. 11 attacks, said he spoke to administration officials, but doesn't know what — if any — action the White House will take. McCain believes the investigation would take over a year, removing the findings from election-year politics.

McCain said the commission should consider a series of questions: Were the estimates wrong? If so, why? Who is responsible? What steps need to be taken to ensure that the president has accurate intelligence information?

Names McCain suggested for the commission include former House Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., former Secretary of State and Treasury George Shultz, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.

Go to Original

Will Iraq Stonewalling Ever End?
By Dick Meyer
CBS News

Friday 30 January 2004

Is it worth the editorial breath to bother calling on the Bush Administration to heed David Kay's suggestion and assemble an independent investigation of pre-war intelligence on the Iraqi threat?

Probably not.

But there are three fairly decent reasons to think, or perhaps just to hope, that a proper inquiry may be a tad more than fantasy.

1. There have been reports that some in the administration actually favor an inquiry, or at least a public admission of fault. Maybe this faction will prevail.

2. President Bush's best overseas friend, Prime Minister Tony Blair, had the sense and confidence to endure an independent inquisition into pre-war intelligence. The report has now largely vindicated him and though he's taking a hit in the polls, he's still standing with honor. Perhaps this will influence President Bush's team.

3. It is conceivable – barely - that the Democrats, so feckless in their opposition to Mr. Bush in Congress so far, can commit an act of actual governing and force an independent investigation down the White House's clenched gullet.

The central obstacle remains the administration's considered commitment to a policy of stonewalling. Whether it's the Kean-Hamilton 9/11 Commission, the investigation of the leak that blew Valerie Plame's CIA cover, congressional intelligence committees' inquiries into Iraq or Vice President Cheney's energy deliberations, the approach of the 43rd president to open government is modeled on the 37th president, Richard Nixon.

But the administration is fully equipped to pursue its political self-interest and they may come to believe that honest politics and policy may coincide here.

And David's Kay's important testimony this week before the Senate Armed Services committee could move the administration along the path of virtue. Contrary to the headlines, Kay's testimony was not all bad news for the Bush administration and was not all good news for its opponents.

The most serious and politically explosive charge against the Bush hawks, obviously, is that they pressured the spies to say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Kay explicitly said he believes this is "a wrong explanation." He said:

"…I had innumerable analysts who came to me in apology that the world that we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed and that they had estimated.

And never -- not in a single case -- was the explanation, 'I was pressured to do this.' The explanation was very often, 'The limited data we had led one to reasonably conclude this. I now see that there's another explanation for it.'…

And each case was different, but the conversations were sufficiently in-depth and our relationship was sufficiently frank that I'm convinced that, at least to the analysts I dealt with, I did not come across a single one that felt it had been, in the military term, 'inappropriate command influence' that led them to take that position.

It was not that. It was the honest difficulty based on the intelligence that had -- the information that had been collected that led the analysts to that conclusion."

The administration's appointment of Kay as head of the Iraq Survey Group in June had immense credibility because he was a critic and a friend of the hated United Nations. He still has that credibility, but his words will only go so far in satisfying the doubters. Why was Vice President Dick Cheney so involved in intelligence assessment? Why did the Pentagon mount its own intelligence operation?

The White House might also take comfort in Kay's admission that, "If I had been there, presented what I have seen as the record of the intelligence estimates, I probably would have come to -- not probably -- I would have come to the same conclusion that the political leaders." He would have concluded that Iraq had WMD.

Kay also concluded that the intelligence agencies simply did not succeed, though not because of any corruption. The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, seemed to agree when he said there was a "world intelligence failure."

And now Kay's conclusion, shared also by Republican Senator John McCain, is that the country needs a fully independent examination of the world intelligence failure -- and how political leaders used intelligence.

It is reckless and irresponsible for the administration to avoid such an inquiry. How will this administration or future administrations have credibility when they say to the American people, "We believe -- fill in the blank: Syria, North Korea, Al Qaeda, Iran, Columbian cartels -- is a dire threat to the U.S. and we must act to protect ourselves."

I also think an independent investigation wouldn't mortally wound Mr. Bush's presidency in this term or in a second term if he should win one. Tony Blair is proving that this week. Ronald Reagan had the guts not to block Iran-Contra investigations and as damaging as they were, they didn't cripple his presidency, his legacy or any government agencies such as the CIA.

But this administration is committed to stonewalling. It can't be shamed into allowing a real investigation. It will admit to no legitimate national security need for an investigation. It thinks credibility is a word for suckers and demagogues. And the administration seems to have no confidence it could weather an investigation and is immune to arguments that an inquiry is actually in its own best interests.

So it's up to the Democrats and may be a few independent minded Republicans. Congressional Democrats have to look at every hardball tool in their arsenal -- filibusters, boycotts, lawsuits -- and find some way to force an investigation, even if its lousy election year politics for the party.

And a smart, efficient and serious way to get the job done is expand the mandate of the Kean-Hamilton 9/11 Commission to include the Iraq war. It is, as the president always says, all part of one battle to protect the country from terrorism.


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