Intelligence community didn't vet Bush, Cheney's opening arguments for war: report
When President Bush and Vice President Cheney began building their case for the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, they did so in high profile speeches that received no vetting or approval from US intelligence agencies that were gathering information about Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a new Senate report.
It turned out that most of their assertions were wrong.
In a sweeping, 200-plus page review of the administration's pre-war case for invasion, the Senate Intelligence Committee found that the American public was being fed information at odds with prevailing views, and officials were ignoring contemporary disagreements in the Intelligence Community.
“In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent. As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed,” Intelligence Committee Chairman John Rockefeller (D-WV) said in a press release announcing the new report.
“It is my belief that the Bush Administration was fixated on Iraq, and used the 9/11 attacks by al Qa’ida as justification for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. To accomplish this, top Administration officials made repeated statements that falsely linked Iraq and al Qa’ida as a single threat and insinuated that Iraq played a role in 9/11. Sadly, the Bush Administration led the nation into war under false pretenses."
The full report is available as two large .pdf files here and here. Rockefeller summarized its findings as follows:
The Committee’s report cites several conclusions in which the Administration’s public statements were NOT supported by the intelligence. They include:
• Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.
• Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.
• Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.
• Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.
• The Secretary of Defense’s statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information.
• The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed.
The report analyzed five of the most prominent speeches from administration officials laying out the case for war, beginning with Vice President Dick Cheney's address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Aug. 26, 2002, through then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's now-infamous presentation to the United Nations in February 2003, just six weeks before the invasion began.
Cheney's speech and President Bush's address to the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002, were not reviewed in advance by the Intelligence Community, according to the report.
That the administration misused and misread intelligence to fit their needs is hardly news at this point. With the 20/20 hindsight available more than five years after the Iraq invasion, the case has been made plenty of times before. Indeed, former Bush spokesman Scott McClellan earned himself plenty of ink last week when he went public with his belief that Bush used "propaganda" to push the war.
The Intelligence Committee's latest report is the last phase in an effort, which began four years ago, to conclusively and comprehensively document what went wrong in the run-up to Iraq. It takes the hard look at the intelligence flaws and failures that few were willing to take less than a year after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“This report again demonstrates how President Bush, Vice President Cheney and others made repeated assertions about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein that were not supported by, and at times outright contradicted, the intelligence available at the time," said Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), an Intelligence Committee member. "The administration made the case for war in Iraq by convincing the American people that Saddam Hussein had, or was on the verge of obtaining, a nuclear weapon and that he had a relationship with al Qaeda and would provide it with weapons of mass destruction to attack the United States. The administration used the 9/11 attacks to justify a war that has not only been waged in a country that had no connection to the attacks, but has seriously damaged our ability to fight al Qaeda. Sadly, after years of misconduct, these findings come as no surprise. This country is more than ready for a new administration that will be truthful with the American people.”
This video is from CNN's Situation Room, broadcast June 5, 2008.