- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2006

2:19 p.m.

The White House refused today to release the rest of a secret intelligence assessment that depicts a growing terrorist threat, as the Bush administration tried to quell election-season criticism that its anti-terrorism policies are off-track.

Press secretary Tony Snow said releasing the full report, portions of which President Bush declassified yesterday, would jeopardize the lives of agents who gathered the information.

It also would risk the nation’s ability to work with foreign governments and to keep secret its U.S. intelligence-gathering methods, Mr. Snow said, and “compromise the independence of people doing intelligence analysis.”

In the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the government’s top analysts concluded that Iraq has become a “cause celebre” for jihadists, who are growing in number and geographic reach. If the trend continues, the analysts found, the risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.

Mr. Snow said today that the NIE report was “not designed to draw judgments about success or failure, it’s an intelligence document, it’s a snapshot.”

He said the report confirms the importance of the war in Iraq as a bulwark against terrorists. “Iraq has become, for them, the battleground,” Mr. Snow said. “If they lose, they lose their bragging rights. They lose their ability to recruit.”

The document has given both political parties new ammunition leading up to November’s midterm elections.

For Republicans, the report provides more evidence that Iraq is central to the war on terrorism and can’t be abandoned without giving jihadists a crucial victory.

For Democrats, the report furthers their argument that the 2003 Iraq invasion has inflamed anti-U.S. sentiments in the Muslim world and left the United States less safe.

Democrats continued their push today for release of the rest of the report.

“The American people deserve the full story, not those parts of it that the Bush administration selects,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned, however, that releasing more of the intelligence assessment could aid terrorists.

“We are very cautious and very restrained about the kind of information we want to give al Qaeda,” Mr. Hoekstra said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in Tirana, Albania, for a meeting of defense ministers, said Mr. Bush had declassified the report’s key judgments, after parts of it were leaked to the press, so “the American people and the world will be able to see the truth and precisely what that document says.”

The NIE report, compiled by leading analysts across 16 U.S. spy agencies, says the “global jihadist movement — which includes al Qaeda, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cells — is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts.”

A separate high-level assessment focused solely on Iraq may be coming soon. At least two House Democrats — Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman, both of California — have questioned whether that report has been stamped “draft” and shelved until after the Nov. 7 elections.

An intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the process, said National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte told lawmakers in writing a one month ago that he had ordered a new Iraq estimate to be assembled. The estimate on terrorism released yesterday took about a year to produce.

But Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said today that Mr. Bush has allowed Iraq to fester as a training ground for terrorists and that U.S. voters are worried about it.

“On Election Day, that morning, if there’s still the carnage in the streets of Iraq, then it will be clear that they have concluded that this administration’s policy has failed and there will be a political price for it,” the Delaware Democrat predicted on CBS’ “The Early Show.”

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