I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Senate Still Examining Pre-War Iraq Intel

Peter Crail

Five years after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S.-led coalition forces, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has yet to conclude its investigations into the pre-war intelligence that was cited by the Bush administration as the basis for the decision to take military action against Iraq.

The committee has conducted the investigation in two phases. The first phase, concluded in 2004, centered on a faulty October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) regarding Iraq’s nonconventional weapons programs. (See ACT, September 2004. )

The second phase of the examination has faced repeated delays since it was announced in February 2004. Nonetheless, this phase has examined a variety of issues, including the intelligence community’s use of information provided by the Iraqi National Congress. (See ACT, December 2006. ) Two issues remain outstanding, and congressional sources told Arms Control Today Jan. 30 that the committee hopes to vote on reports regarding them before the summer recess. It is unclear if this can be accomplished.

One of the remaining issues relates to whether pre-war public statements on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and links to terrorism by administration officials were substantiated by intelligence information. As part of this investigation, the committee has asked the administration to share all Presidential Daily Briefs on Iraq during the investigation’s time frame. The administration has refused to honor this request.

The second remaining issue involves the intelligence-related activities conducted by two Pentagon offices: the Office of Special Plans and the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld established the Office of Special Plans, which was tasked with examining raw intelligence related to Iraq’s WMD programs, within the office of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy. Feith created the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group after the September 2001 attacks to examine links between terrorist organizations and host countries.

In February 2007, the Pentagon inspector general issued a report stating that Feith’s office produced “alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community.” The report further stated that, although these activities were not illegal or unauthorized, they were “inappropriate.” Congressional sources told Arms Control Today Feb. 15 that former committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) used the Pentagon investigation as an excuse to delay the committee’s investigation into Feith’s offices.