- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2003

From combined dispatches

A draft report of an internal CIA review of prewar U.S. intelligence reports found that they showed Iraq had been pursuing weapons of mass destruction and that analysts did not change their views as the war approached, a U.S. intelligence official said.

The report said: “It is unlikely that even the most critical review of reporting would have led to the conclusion that [weapons of mass destruction] programs were not being pursued,” the official told Reuters news agency Wednesday on the condition of anonymity.

The report was drafted by a small team led by former CIA Deputy Director Richard Kerr and sent to the CIA in mid-June. The second part of the review will be to compare the intelligence analysis with “ground truth” found in Iraq and will not be completed for some time, the official said.

The review was conducted after a decision by CIA Director George J. Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in October that in the event of a war against Iraq, there would be a review later of how the prewar intelligence had stood up — “what did we get right, what could we have done better,” the intelligence official said.

Critics have accused the Bush administration of exaggerating the threat from Iraq’s biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs to gain support for the war. No such weapons have been found since Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted from power in April.

The House and Senate intelligence committees also are reviewing analysis on Iraq’s weapons programs. No intelligence analysts have complained to the committees that they were forced to change their views.

Mr. Kerr’s group reviewed the major intelligence reports written for policy-makers on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, including the October “National Intelligence Estimate,” which has been the subject of closed-door congressional hearings.

While that report is classified, its basic findings were mirrored in a CIA report issued in October. The CIA report, which was made public, said: “Since inspections ended in 1998, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort, energized its missile program and invested more heavily in biological weapons; most analysts assess Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.”

The draft report of the internal review generally concluded that “the analysts did a very good job of laying out what they knew, what they didn’t know. That it was very consistent, didn’t change as we got closer to the war,” the intelligence official said.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Kerr said U.S. intelligence analysts in some cases had little current, reliable information to go on when judging Iraq’s weapons capability.

Despite pressure from Bush administration officials who were trying to build a case for war, the analysts cataloged some uncertainties about the data in internal intelligence reports and did not exaggerate their findings, Mr. Kerr said.

The foundation of the U.S. information on Iraq’s weapons programs was discoveries after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Mr. Kerr said. But after weapons inspectors from the United Nations left Iraq in 1998, much of the information dried up, leaving the U.S. government to discover what it could from satellite images, intercepted communications, and spies and refugees.

But solid information was sometimes lacking. What the intelligence agencies did learn seemed to confirm their conclusions that Iraq had active programs to make chemical and biological weapons and to develop nuclear weapons, Mr. Kerr told AP.

“There was, in some areas, a dearth of hard, detailed intelligence,” he said. “That presents a real problem for intelligence analysts.”

Still, he said, “it would have been very hard for an intelligence analyst to determine that there were no weapons of mass destruction programs. There was a lot of information over time.”

Mr. Kerr predicted that more evidence of weapons programs would be found in Iraq but said the search might be fruitless. “It’s a set of judgments,” he said. “It may be wrong. It may not be completely accurate.”

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