Battle Brewing over Congressional Investigations

Article excerpt

AS CONGRESS PROBES the Bush administration's failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, battle lines are forming over how far the investigations should go. The Republican chairs of both the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence are eager to limit political damage to the White House and have limited their inquiries to examining how the intelligence community carried out its work.

Democrats insist the panels need to look beyond the quality of information that was supplied to President George W. Bush. They also want the investigations to look at whether Bush or his aides intentionally exaggerated claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities in order to bolster their case for war. "I think the central question here is, frankly: Was there a predetermination to go to war on the part of the administration....Or was there faulty intelligence," Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in an appearance Oct. 26 on Meet the Press.

Republicans dispute the idea that Bush intentionally misled the American people. Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) told USA Today and the Washington Post that his inquiry found no evidence that the White House pressured intelligence officials.

Roberts' assessment was bolstered to some extent by remarks from Carl W. Ford Jr., the State Department's newly retired intelligence chief. The intelligence community "has to bear the major responsibility for WMD information in Iraq and other intelligence failures," Ford said in remarks published in the Oct. 29 Los Angeles Times. "We badly underperformed for a number of years," he added, "and the information we were giving the policy community was off the mark."

But at a hearing of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee Oct. 24, Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, said the intelligence committee's inquiry is "missing half" the issue. Levin is conducting his own inquiry, and Rockefeller has said he will launch an additional committee review to look at the administration's use of intelligence if the majority refuses to do so. …