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GOP Rejects Formal Congress Probe on Iraq (english)
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12 Jun 2003
GOP Rejects Formal Congress Probe on Iraq
GOP Rejects Formal Congress Probe on Iraq
By KEN GUGGENHEIM
Associated Press Writer
June 11 2003, 11:39 PM EDT
WASHINGTON -- Congressional Republicans on Wednesday rejected Democratic calls for a formal investigation into intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs, contending that such a probe could harm intelligence agencies'work.
The majority Republicans said routine oversight by Congress' Intelligence and Armed Services committees will be adequate to evaluate intelligence findings that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Those findings served as the basis for the war on Iraq, but no such weapons have been found.
The inability of Democrats and Republicans to agree on an inquiry deepens partisan divisions in an area with potential consequences in the 2004 election: whether prewar intelligence on Iraq was inaccurate or had been manipulated to make the case for war.
Republican lawmakers say there is no evidence of wrongdoing and an investigation would suggest "there's something dreadfully wrong and you're going to have to set things straight," said Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Roberts, R-Kan., said his committee will evaluate prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and its connection to terrorist groups. It will examine whether the findings were reasonable and accurate. The CIA has begun submitting details of the intelligence that supported administration claims on the weapons.
"If it proves out that there is some concern and some kind of egregious mistake, why obviously, we'll go further with that with further action," Roberts said.
The committee's top Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, said he will continue pressing Roberts for an investigation.
"What they appear to be doing is entirely inadequate and slow-paced and potentially kind of sleepwalking through history," he said.
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., another committee member, said, "It takes a special effort to put this committee into an oversight gear and it will not happen with the routine business-as-usual approach suggested by Republicans."
Democrats say the credibility of U.S. intelligence is at stake because of the failure to locate weapons of mass destruction and problems in some of the evidence cited by the administration. Documents indicating Iraq imported uranium from Niger were forgeries. Aluminum tubes described as intended for nuclear weapons were probably meant for conventional artillery rockets.
The CIA mission in Niger had disputed the claim that Iraq attempted to buy uranium from the central African nation, but the CIA did not pass on the detailed results of its investigation to the White House or other government agencies, The Washington Post said in a report for Thursday editions. The report cited senior administration officials and a former government official who were not identified.
The search for weapons persists. On Wednesday, the CIA appointed David Kay, a former U.N. weapons inspector, as a special adviser to the agency for the search. Kay, 63, will be based in Iraq.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said Wednesday he believes Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and that the war was justified. But he repeated his position that the administration hyped some weaker evidence in pressing its case for war.
Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters he stands by his prewar statement on Iraqi weapons programs and noted that experts are continuing to investigate. "I think one should be careful about making judgments as to what was hyped or not hyped," he said.
Rockefeller and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, had sought a joint investigation by the two committees. Rockefeller and Roberts had hoped to work out their differences.
But no agreement was reached and no Democrats were invited to a news conference announcing committee plans. Appearing with Roberts were House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va.
Roberts said some of the criticism of intelligence has "been simply politics and for political gain."
"I will not allow the committee to be politicized or to be used as an unwitting tool for any political strategist," he said.
Roberts said such criticism has already hurt intelligence agencies and could cause them "to go back to the days of risk aversion, the primary cause of 9-11." A congressional investigation of the attacks found that agencies were weakened by a culture that discouraged employees from taking risks for fear of being criticized.
Roberts, Goss and Warner said the White House did not attempt to influence their decisions on an investigation. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, traveling with Bush for a speech in Chicago, said the administration "welcomes the review."
Roberts said closed-door hearings will begin next week and public statements will be made "when the committee deems it appropriate." The Armed Services Committee has already begun closed-door hearings on the intelligence issue.
Levin said he sent a letter to Warner suggesting that the committee's Democratic and Republican staffs work together to review documents, interview intelligence and military personnel, hold hearings and issue a final report.