- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

Fewer than a dozen House members have taken the time to review more than 10,000 pages of intelligence documents backing up administration claims about Iraq, which were made available more than a month ago.

And members of both parties said the unprecedented move to make 19 binders of information available is one reason why there is less of an outcry from House members than senators over Iraq’s weapons programs.

“I honestly believe the membership of the House really believes we have a good committee that runs on a bipartisan basis,” said Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Select Intelligence committee.

“I think that’s true,” said Rep. Jane Harman of California, top Democrat on the committee, who said the panel’s Republicans and Democrats have worked together to decide how to go about their review of intelligence.

The Bush administration has recently been roundly criticized for failing to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And the administration has been on the defensive for the last two weeks over the president’s claim about Iraq’s nuclear ambitions in his State of the Union address.

But Republicans said many of those criticisms, particularly those coming from the Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination, are ill-founded.

“Some members who like to speak the loudest and most on it like to be uninformed,” said Rep. Rob Simmons, Connecticut Republican.

“Intelligence should be collected and analyzed, not ignored then politicized,” said Rep. Deborah Pryce, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Republican Conference.

Mr. Goss said the number of members who have looked at the documents doesn’t surprise him. During the yearly appropriations process for intelligence operations, he said, when classified numbers are available for members’ review, only about five members ever avail themselves of the opportunity.

He said making the weapons-program information available shows “there’s no cover-up going on, nothing untoward happening here.”

To view the materials, members must sign a confidentiality agreement that they won’t discuss the information. Intelligence Committee staff members said they do not brief members so they aren’t accused of spinning the material, but they will point members to sections they are interested in.

Some members have said they won’t look at the information under those terms because they couldn’t discuss it if they had questions. Others are still calling for an independent commission to review the intelligence, arguing that’s the only way to avoid politics.

But Mrs. Harman said those Democrats she’s spoken with who have reviewed the information were appreciative.

Mr. Simmons, one of those who has looked at the binders, was particularly interested in the documents that backed up Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s United Nations speech.

The congressman, former CIA analyst and staff director for the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the binders are divided so members can find backing for each key claim Mr. Powell made. He said the judgements are all backed up — though some with more information than others.

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