CIA Director George J. Tenet said U.S. intelligence on Iraq’s weapons program was produced honestly and dismissed critics who charge that estimates of Baghdad’s arms programs were exaggerated to justify the war.
“Integrity and objectivity are hallmarks of the intelligence profession,” Mr. Tenet said in a rare public statement released Friday and made public Monday.
“That’s the code we live by, and that is what policy-makers expect from us,” he said. “That is exactly what was done and continues to be done on intelligence issues related to Iraq.”
Mr. Tenet defended CIA analysts working on Iraq and said the “integrity of our process was maintained throughout, and any suggestion to the contrary is simply wrong.”
The President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and Congress are examining the issue of whether intelligence was misused to justify military action in Iraq. And yesterday, lawmakers in Britain announced that they would hold an inquiry into their government’s decision to join the U.S.-led war.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers differed on whether to hold hearings on the Iraq intelligence in the months leading up to the monthlong conflict.
Joint hearings of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees will be held into intelligence agencies’ reporting Iraq’s chemical, biological and nuclear programs and missile systems, Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Sunday.
Mr. Warner said he was told last week by Mr. Tenet that the agency would assist the congressional inquiry.
“He assured me that he’s going to supply the Congress first and foremost with all the statements made by the administration on weapons of mass destruction and the underlying intelligence that supported those statements,” Mr. Warner told CNN on Sunday.
However, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, said yesterday that he would not hold hearings until a review of reports by the committee staff is undertaken first.
The reluctance to hold hearings prompted the intelligence panel’s vice chairman, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, to say he would push for hearings if Mr. Roberts refused to authorize them by week’s end.
“One way or another, we have to have an investigation,” Mr. Rockefeller said, noting that “I don’t want this to appear partisan.”
In London, the House of Commons Foreign Relations Committee announced yesterday it would hold an inquiry into whether the British government misused intelligence in building its case to go to war with Iraq because of hidden weapons.
The British panel usually holds its inquiries in public. The committee said it plans to take oral statements from witnesses this month and publish a report in July.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office had wanted hearings by the Joint Intelligence and Security Committee, a panel that often meets privately and reports directly to Mr. Blair.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last week that the CIA put together a team of intelligence specialists before the war began to provide an analysis to “get ground truth and see how successful were they in their denial and deception techniques; what kinds of things were they able to do to mislead us with respect to our analysis, and the like.”
Mr. Rumsfeld said there was no review to see whether intelligence agencies were wrong.
Two mobile vans that U.S. intelligence agencies say are designed to make biological weapons have been found. But so far U.S. military search teams have been unable to find any caches of weapons that were banned under United Nations resolutions since the Persian Gulf war.
A new team of Defense Intelligence Agency searchers is on its way to Iraq to look at the hundreds of suspected weapons sites in the country.
In Baghdad, a spokesman for the anti-Saddam Hussein Iraqi National Congress said his organization did not provide false information to the U.S. government on Iraq’s weapons, and said Saddam’s regime used sophisticated means to hide its arms.
“We brought this information at a certain time and place … Saddam had the capacity to move these weapons,” Entifadh Qanbar told reporters. “We established a very credible track record.”
L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, also said this week that he expects the banned Iraqi weapons to be uncovered.
“It seems very hard to believe that Saddam Hussein would have put his people through the misery he put them through for 12 years … if he didn’t have something to hide,” Mr. Bremer told reporters.
Staff writer James G. Lakely contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.