- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005

A presidential commission that examined prewar intelligence on Iraq said yesterday that the Bush administration did not distort evidence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program, calling information provided by U.S. spy agencies ‘dead wrong.’

In a report released yesterday, the commission said the United States’ 15 intelligence agencies know ?disturbingly little? about the world’s most dangerous proliferation threats, including Iran and North Korea, and repeatedly has failed to produce strong intelligence.

In some cases, the intelligence community ?knows less now than it did five or 10 years ago,? said the report by the nine-member panel, formally called the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Both Charles S. Robb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia and co-chairman of the commission, and co-chairman Laurence H. Silberman, a Republican, said the president and his administration must press the spy agencies harder, even if it means risking the appearance of injecting politics into the process.

‘It’s very important for policymakers to question and push hard on the intelligence community to explore and to fill gaps in intelligence,’ said Mr. Silberman, a retired judge.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, sought to blame the president and the administration for using faulty intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.

‘I believe it is essential that we hold both the intelligence agencies and senior policymakers accountable for their actions,’ he said.

But Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was pleased by the report and that it should conclude all inquiries into intelligence used to make the case for going to war with Iraq.

In a letter to President Bush presenting the 600-page report, the result of a yearlong probe, the committee members said: ‘What the intelligence professionals told you about Saddam Hussein’s programs was what they believed. They were simply wrong.’

The report made 74 recommendations to improve intelligence gathering and dissemination of information, nearly all of which can be handled by presidential order.

Mr. Bush said he expects to move swiftly to implement the changes, many of which are organizational.

‘To win the war on terror, we will correct what needs to be fixed, and build on what the commission calls solid intelligence successes,’ Mr. Bush said.

The president named Fran Townsend, his White House-based homeland security adviser, to ‘review the commission’s finding and to assure that concrete actions are taken.’

More than 50 of the recommendations deal with the newly created position of director of national intelligence (DNI). John D. Negroponte, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has been named by the president to fill the post, and his Senate confirmation is expected to begin early this month.

The presidential panel called on Mr. Bush to fully back his new DNI and ensure that the Pentagon and the CIA — which jealously guard their territory — don’t ‘run over’ him.

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