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The Missing WMD Report
David Corn

March 24, 2005

Below is a piece I wrote for the latest issue of The Nation. It seems that
Pat Roberts, the Republican chairman of the Senate intelligence committee,
wants to break the promise he made last year to investigate whether the
Bush administration misrepresented the prewar intelligence on WMDs. What a
surprise. Before the November election, Roberts said this was an important
subject warranting examination but that his committee could not mount an
inquiry until early 2005. How politically convenient. Now he wants to
forget all about it. This matter has so far received little media
coverage. But Democrats should be howling about Roberts' stonewalling. Do
your bit for responsibility and accountability in government by passing
along this article.

Missing WMD Report
The Nation, April 11, 2005
by David Corn

When is a priority not a priority? When it's after the election.

Last July, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a much-anticipated
report on the prewar intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq .
The study concluded that the intelligence community -- led by the CIA --
had "overstated" and "mischaracterized" the intelligence on Iraq 's
(nonexistent) WMDs. The massive report repeatedly detailed instances when
the intelligence services botched the job by ignoring contrary evidence,
embracing questionable sources and rushing to judgments that just happened
to fit the preconceived notions of the Bush Administration. "What the
President and the Congress used to send the country to war was information
that was...flawed," declared Pat Roberts, the Republican chairman of the
committee. Jay Rockefeller, the committee's senior Democrat, noted that
the report outlined "one of the most devastating...intelligence failure in
the history of the nation."

But the committee's report did not cover a crucial area: how the Bush
Administration used -- or abused -- the prewar intelligence to build
support for the Iraq invasion. Roberts claimed his committee was hot on
that trail: "It is one of my top priorities," he said. The problem, he
explained, was that there was not enough time before the November election
to complete the assignment. Rockefeller took issue with that and
complained that the "central issue of how intelligence was...exaggerated
by Bush Administration officials" was being relegated into a "Phase II"
investigation that would not begin until after the election. A Democratic
committee staffer said that such an inquiry could easily be completed
within months.

Still, Roberts succeeded in his transparent effort to kick that
inconvenient can down the road. (Imagine the headache for the Bush
campaign if news stories appeared before the election reporting that the
committee had found Bush had stretched an already stretched truth.) Now --
with Bush re-elected -- Roberts no longer considers Phase II a priority.
In mid-March, Roberts declared further investigation pointless. He noted
that if his committee asked Bush officials whether they had overstated or
mischaracterized prewar intelligence, they'd simply claim their statements
had been based on "bum intelligence." Roberts remarked, "To go though that
exercise, it seems to me, in a postelection environment, wedidn'tt see how
we could do that and achieve any possible progress. I think everybody
pretty well gets it."

Gets what, precisely? The evidence is strong that Bush and his aides
overstated the overstated intelligence. One example: Bush claimed that
Iraq possessed stockpiles of biological weapons, yet the CIA reported only
that Saddam had an active biological weapons R&D program. (It turns out he
had neither stockpiles nor an active program.) The question is, How and
why did Bush and his lieutenants come to exaggerate exaggerations? And
just because the answer is obvious doesn't mean an investigation is

While Roberts has dismissed the need for Phase II, Rockefeller has been
trying to push the investigation forward. But the committee has not yet
bothered to interview any Administration officials about the use of prewar
intelligence. The committee also appears to be stymied by obstacles it
encountered last year while pursuing a matter to be included in the Phase
II inquiry: the actions of the Office of Special Plans. The OSP was a
neocon-linked, maverick intelligence shop in the Pentagon set up to search
for intelligence (good or bad) to support the case for war. Phase II was
supposed to determine whether the OSP had operated appropriately. But when
committee staff were probing the OSP last year, people connected to it
began hiring lawyers and clamming up, and the committee had a hard time
prying documents from the Pentagon. "We received documents up to a point,"
comments a Rockefeller aide. "Then it stopped. The issue for us became
whether we wrapped up the investigation on the basis of what we got, or do
we try to get more information?" Roberts, however, has signaled he's no
longer interested in the OSP inquiry. "We sort of came to a crossroads,
and that is basically on the back burner," he said recently. So
stonewalling works.

It would not tax the committee to compare the prewar assertions of Bush
officials with the intelligence it had been provided. Apparently the
commission Bush appointed last year (under pressure) to examine WMD
intelligence has not been performing this task. The preliminary signs are
that this commission, due to issue a report soon, will focus on
inadequacies of intelligence related to present and potential WMD threats,
such as Iran and North Korea.

When the intelligence committee released its report last summer, I asked
Roberts if the public and relatives of US troops killed in Iraq deserved
to know "whether this Administration handled intelligence matters
adequately and made statements that were justified." He replied, "I have
made my commitment, and it will be done." His promise was -- oh-so
shocking! -- nothing but a maneuver to protect Bush's backside.
Rockefeller and other Democrats are insisting Phase II be carried out. But
Bush may benefit from the attempted cover-up. A President doesn't have to
worry about troubling answers if no one asks the questions.