By Paul Kerr
A U.S. Senate investigation of intelligence issues related to pre-war estimates of Iraq’s prohibited weapons programs appears to be winding down. A similar House investigation appears to have been concluded about a year ago.
Last summer, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a report criticizing the intelligence community’s pre-war failures to describe Iraq’s weapons programs.
According to that report, the committee was to conduct a second phase of the investigation, including such issues as the nature of intelligence activities conducted by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and whether policymakers’ public statements concerning the Iraqi threat were supported by intelligence. Republican and Democratic committee staff members told Arms Control Today that the investigation is ongoing, but the two sides appear divided on some specifics.
For example, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) indicated March 10 that an evaluation of administration officials’ statements would not be productive because the committee could not know the intentions of those officials, who would anyway attribute any inaccurate statements to “bum intelligence.”
However, a Democratic staff member pointed out March 14 that the committee could compare administration officials’ statements with actual intelligence reports.
Roberts also stated that the investigation of the officials’ activities was on the “back burner” because they stopped cooperating after ranking member Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said their actions may have been “unlawful.” The officials obtained lawyers after Rockefeller’s statement.
The staffer said that the officials had “overreacted” to Rockefeller’s statement. Still, the Pentagon has turned over enough material to the committee for members to “comment intelligently” about their activities, the staffer added.
Although Roberts suggested that other committee priorities may impede the investigation, both staff members disagreed. The committee might issue a report, they said.
The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation, which was originally announced in June 2003 and has received much less public attention than its Senate equivalent, has apparently ended. The last official public mention of the investigation was an April 2004 letter from committee Democrats to President George W. Bush recommending intelligence procedure reforms. The committee’s chairpersons had sent a September 2003 letter to CIA director George Tenet criticizing the intelligence community’s handling of Iraq weapons issues.