Wednesday, March 3, 2004

CIA Director George J. Tenet is expected to defend the record of U.S. intelligence agencies on Iraq’s weapons program and ties to terrorists today during a closed-door hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Mr. Tenet will testify as part of the committee’s probe into U.S. intelligence assessments before the Iraq war, according to congressional and administration officials.

Intelligence agencies in October 2002 unanimously concluded that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological arms before the Iraq war.

The committee has produced a draft report on the issue that is critical of CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies’ analyses of Iraq.

The report examines ties between Iraq and international terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, and how the U.S. intelligence community assessed the ties.

Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said last week that the panel has been investigating the issues for eight months and will produce two reports.

Mr. Roberts said during a hearing on global threats that Mr. Tenet’s testimony today likely “will be the first in a number of appearances as the committee does finalize its reports and begins to consider the recommendations for change.”

Mr. Tenet asked to testify last year as a way to “influence the process” of the panel in its investigation, a Senate aide said.

Among the issues being investigated are whether the CIA failed to try and verify intelligence reports related to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in Iraq in the months before the war.

One U.S. official said the agency’s Directorate of Operations could have placed special sensors at suspected sites in Iraq. Instead, the limited number of sensors were put at other military targets not related to weapons of mass destruction.

So far, no chemical or biological arms have been found. After 85 percent of the work to find them has been completed, former CIA arms inspector David Kay stated last month that those weapons do not exist.

A key element of the debate on Iraq’s weapons is a 2002 national intelligence estimate.

An unclassified version of the estimate stated that Saddam Hussein probably had stockpiled “a few hundred metric tons” of chemical weapons. It also said Iraq “has some lethal and incapacitating [biological weapons] agents.”

According to U.S. officials, the Iraq estimate was put together by four key officials. Lawrence K. Gershwin, the national intelligence officer (NIO) for science and technology, worked on the biological-weapons portion; and retired Army Maj. Gen. John R. Landry, the NIO for conventional military issues, wrote the chemical-arms section.

Paul R. Pillar, the NIO for the Near East and South Asia wrote the section on Saddam’s political intentions, and Robert D. Walpole, the NIO for strategic and nuclear programs was responsible for the portion of the estimate relating to weapons of mass destruction.

In a recent speech, Mr. Tenet disputed Mr. Kay’s claim, but acknowledged that intelligence analysis of the chemical- and biological-arms stockpiles was inaccurate.

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