The Senate Intelligence Committee appears to have dropped a second stage of its own investigation that was to have focused on the administration's use of intelligence.

In the run-up to war, Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top administration officials sometimes overlooked warnings about the reliability of the intelligence and divisions among intelligence agencies, overstated what the intelligence said and used information from sources that some officials suspected - and in several cases knew - weren't trustworthy.

"We lack specific information on many key aspects of Iraq's WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs. ... We have low confidence in our ability to assess when Saddam would use WMD," the nation's intelligence agencies concluded in a National Intelligence Estimate in October 2002.

In another caveat that was delivered to the president and his top advisers in the same document, State Department intelligence officials disagreed with the conclusion that Iraq had tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons in Africa.

Bush nevertheless repeated that assertion in his State of the Union speech a few months later. The White House later retracted the allegation.

Cheney was even more definitive in his accusations against Saddam.

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," the vice president said in August 2002.

Silberman said the commission had no authority to consider how policy-makers used intelligence that was sent to them during the buildup to war. When pressed, he suggested that the president was misled by a steady stream of information that exaggerated the threat.

"We looked at the flow, or the stream of intelligence that came to the White House. ... If anything, it was even more alarmist," he said.

The issue may never be aired fully. The Senate Intelligence Committee appears to have dropped a second stage of its own investigation that was to have focused on the administration's use of intelligence. (Knight-Ridder)

Posted at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

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