- The Washington Times - Monday, November 14, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

While acknowledging “we were wrong” about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, President Bush’s national security adviser yesterday rejected assertions that the president manipulated intelligence and misled the American people.

Mr. Bush relied on the collective judgment of the intelligence community when he determined that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley said.

“Turns out, we were wrong,” Mr. Hadley told “Late Edition” on CNN. “But I think the point that needs to be emphasized … allegations now that the president somehow manipulated intelligence, somehow misled the American people, are flat wrong.”

Republican lawmakers and other officials who appeared on Sunday news shows echoed Mr. Bush’s Veterans Day speech in which he defended his decision to invade Iraq.

Mr. Bush said Democrats in Congress had the same intelligence about Iraq, and he argued that many now claiming that the information had been manipulated had supported going to war. The president also accused his critics of making false charges and playing politics with the war.

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean rejected the criticism yesterday and said: “The truth is, the president misled America when he sent us to war.”

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the party chairman disputed Mr. Bush’s claim that Congress had the same information — the president withheld some intelligence and some caveats about it, Mr. Dean said — and that two commissions had found no evidence of pressure being placed on those within the intelligence community.

In fact, Mr. Dean said, how the administration handled the intelligence it received has yet to be determined by a Senate committee.

Contending that the president has not been honest about the size of the deficit as well as the war, Mr. Dean said: “This is an administration that has a fundamental problem telling the truth.”

Mr. Hadley said Mr. Bush received dissenting views about the accuracy of intelligence and relied on the collective judgment of the intelligence community as conveyed by the CIA director. The national security adviser criticized those who continue to claim that Mr. Bush manipulated the intelligence and made misleading statements.

“It is unworthy and unfair and ill-advised, when our men and women in combat are putting their lives on the line, to relitigate an issue which was looked at by two authoritative sources and deemed closed,” he said. “We need to put this debate behind us.”

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said Democrats have a right to criticize the war but that it was disingenuous to claim that Mr. Bush lied about intelligence to justify it.

“Every intelligence agency in the world, including the Russians, the French … all reached the same conclusion,” Mr. McCain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Mr. Hadley said issues about the accuracy of U.S. intelligence have not impaired the administration’s ability to pursue its policies regarding the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

“We’ve been able to move our diplomacy forward at the same time we’re taking the steps we need to do to improve our intelligence,” he said.

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