- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS — Leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reached agreement yesterday on how to examine prewar intelligence on Iraq and determine whether it was manipulated, avoiding a partisan split on an inquiry that could have political consequences for 2004.

The committee will examine intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, Iraq’s ties to terrorism and the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the region and to his own people, according to a statement from Chairman Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, and Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the panel’s top Democrat.

It will examine the “objectivity, reasonableness, independence and accuracy” of intelligence assessments and whether they were properly shared with the Bush administration and Congress.

It will also assess “whether any influence was brought to bear on anyone to shape their analysis to support policy objectives.”

The statement said the inquiry would include “closed and open hearings, as appropriate.” Democrats have insisted that some of the hearings be open.

The announcement came two weeks after their House Intelligence Committee counterparts announced a similar review. That committee held its first two closed-door hearings this week.

The Senate intelligence committee held its first hearing on the weapons issue Thursday, even with Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Roberts still at odds about how to conduct an inquiry.

Mr. Rockefeller and other committee Democrats had called for a full investigation. They noted that administration assertions about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction were the main justification for the war but that U.S. forces have yet to find any such weapons. Some of the evidence cited by the Bush administration has been deemed false or misleading.

But Mr. Roberts said an investigation would imply misconduct and that there is no evidence of wrongdoing. He said the committee’s regular oversight would be adequate. The committee has begun reviewing thousands of pages of material submitted by intelligence agencies in support of administration statements.

The joint statement did not refer to an “investigation” nor acknowledge that differences between the senators had been resolved. Instead it announced Mr. Roberts and Mr. Rockfeller’s “joint commitment to continue the committee’s thorough review.”

In the statement, Mr. Rockefeller described the inquiry as one of the committee’s “most important undertakings.”

“In an age when we may again be urged to go to war under the doctrine of pre-emption, the nation needs assurance that our government provides the accurate and unbiased intelligence” to the president and Congress, he said. President Bush’s pre-emption doctrine holds that it is permissible to launch pre-emptive attacks on hostile states that threaten U.S. national security.

In addition to the two intelligence committee reviews, the Senate Armed Services Committee has also been conducting a review of prewar intelligence as part of its examination of the war in Iraq.

Yesterday, the committee studied postwar rebuilding issues in a closed-door meeting with retired Gen. Jay Garner, the former administrator of the U.S. reconstruction team in Iraq.

Chairman John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, told reporters after the meeting that the rising violence against U.S. forces in Iraq may be tied to uncertainties about the fate of Saddam.

Mr. Warner said there is “lingering doubt as to whether he is alive or dead, could return and have some reprisal against those who work with the coalition.”

That has prevented U.S. soldiers from getting information from prisoners, he said.

“Undoubtedly, there is some level of coordination from remnants of his regime,” he said.

Mr. Garner said he doesn’t know whether Saddam is dead or alive.

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