- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004

A year is not enough time for a presidential commission to investigate the validity of prewar intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, a key Republican leader and former CIA official said yesterday.

Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said his panel in June began investigating “a narrower piece” of intelligence failures that will not be completed until summer.

“So I think a year is rushing it a bit,” Mr. Goss said on “Fox News Sunday.”

However, Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark says it should take only three months for a thorough examination.

“If the intelligence is so bad that we went to war by mistake, then the intelligence is so bad that it needs to be fixed on an urgent basis,” the former Army general told CNN’s “Late Edition.”

“I would say 90 days is an appropriate period of time if you’ve got a major flaw that you’re looking at in the intelligence community,” Mr. Clark said. “What we’ve got here is a president who simply doesn’t want to be held accountable. This is an administration that’s quick to take credit. They’re very slow to take responsibility.”

President Bush announced Friday he was creating the seven-member commission — which will be expanded to nine — to investigate and report by March 31, 2005, prewar intelligence of Iraqi’s possession of weapons of mass destruction compared with the findings of the Iraq Survey Group.

The commission also will review intelligence on weapons possessed by other countries including North Korea and Iran, and threats posed by Libya and Afghanistan.

“The reason why we gave time is because we didn’t want it to be hurried. This is a strategic look, kind of a big-picture look about the intelligence-gathering capacities of the United States of America,” Mr. Bush said yesterday during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The commission will be co-chaired by former Sen. Chuck Robb, Virginia Democrat, and D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Lawrence Silberman, a Reagan appointee. It includes Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who was a rival to Mr. Bush in the 2000 presidential primaries; Lloyd Cutler, former White House counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton; Rick Levin, Yale University president; Bill Studeman, former deputy director of the CIA under President George Bush; and Judge Pat Wald, a former D.C. Court of Appeals judge appointed by Mr. Carter.

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean told CNN that President Bush “has not been truthful with the American people about why we went to war” and said Saddam Hussein “was never a threat to the U.S.”

Mr. Dean called the timing of the commission political and said the bipartisan appointments will not be objective. “I think this commission needs to be a great deal more independent than it is,” the former Vermont governor told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“If you were investigating the fact that we went to war apparently on false information, it seems to me that you need an inquiry that is not appointed by the president of the United States, no matter how good the people on it may be,” Mr. Dean said. “They owe something to the president of the United States; they owe their appointment to the president of the United States.”

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence also began investigating intelligence failures in June and expects to have its report ready in the coming weeks. Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and committee chairman, said staffers examined documents stacked “floor-to-ceiling” and the draft report numbers more than 300 pages.

Mr. Roberts said it will be very difficult to “leapfrog the politics” in an election year and agree on specific recommendations to improve intelligence capabilities.

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