"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years."
After the political furor surrounding last week’s release of the Phase II Iraq report, you might assume the above statement was made by Dick Cheney in the summer of 2002, but you would be wrong. Instead, that statement was made by Democrat Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Senate floor in October 2002 after reading key intelligence members of Congress used to base their decision to support war against the dangerous despot Saddam Hussein
While the public record is replete with similar examples, the Democrats failed to include any of their own statements along side those of the Administration officials they sought to damn in the final Phase II report. The bottom line is that Democrats in the Senate examined the same intelligence as the Administration, and they too characterized Iraq as a growing and dangerous threat to the United States.
What lesson should we take from this? After countless investigations and reports, we all now know that the intelligence leading up to the Iraq war was wrong. In order to prevent repeating the failures of the past, our Senate and House Intelligence Committees should be focused on improving oversight, the collection and analysis of threats, the sharing of intelligence, and boosting human intelligence capabilities.
Unfortunately, corrosive partisanship has recently reduced the Senate Intelligence Committee to the "gotcha" election year politics that divide so many in Congress, keeping us from our most important responsibility — ensuring our terror fighters have the tools they need to keep America safe.
Last week’s Phase II report is only the latest example that political interests — not national security — are the real priorities on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
This report not only violates the Committee’s principles by making politics, not intelligence oversight, the agenda, but also rejects the findings unanimously reached in the Committee’s first report. In July 2004, the Committee’s Phase I Iraq report makes clear that flawed intelligence — not Administration deception — was the basis for policy maker’s statements and decisions. Despite this, the Democrats’ report completely ignores this key finding.
Ironically, the Democrats knowingly distort and misrepresent the Committee’s prior Phase I findings in an effort to prove that the Administration distorted and mischaracterized intelligence.
After countless wasted man hours of work and tax payer dollars used, the end result is a partisan report riddled with false claims, distortions and half truths.
For example, the Democrats concluded that 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 intelligence.
The problem? Neither the President nor Secretary of State ever suggested that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership and their statements that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training were amply substantiated by intelligence.
Both the President and Secretary of State noted that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had high-level contacts; that a senior al-Qa’ida leader had been in Baghdad seeking medical treatment for Afghanistan war injuries, and that Iraq had trained al-Qa’ida members in bomb-making, poisons and deadly gases.
And what about the intelligence? Director of Central Intelligence Tenet testified before Congress in September 2002 that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had more than a decade of high-level contacts, that senior al-Qa’ida planner Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was in Baghdad in late May 2002; and that "there is evidence that Iraq provided al-Qa’ida with various kinds of training—combat, bomb-making, and CBRN." Countless other intelligence products sent to the Administration and Congress had the exact same assessments.
The President’s and Secretary of State’s statements about Iraq and al-Qa’ida not only were substantiated by the intelligence; they almost exactly matched the judgments of the intelligence community. This seems surprising in light of the claims by the Democrats that the statements were not substantiated, but it is not surprising considering that both the President’s Cincinnati speech and Secretary Powell’s UN speech were submitted to the intelligence community for fact-checking, a fact excluded from the majority report.
The Democrats also did not include the fact that after the CIA finished fact-checking the Cincinnati speech, the senior CIA terrorism analyst wrote on the speech draft that he had reviewed the terrorism sections and that they were "all okay
The flawed Phase II report also failed to mention that the Secretary of State’s UN speech was fact-checked over several days with a team of intelligence community analysts and officers including the Director of Central Intelligence, who sat in clear view behind the Secretary of State as he delivered the speech.
Worse, the report failed to mention that the CIA wrote the first draft of the speech, which included the intelligence on Iraq providing training to al-Qa’ida; the same information the Democrats said was not substantiated by intelligence.
Even these distortions are not enough for some. In his additional views, Chairman Rockefeller went a step further, claiming that the Administration falsely asserted that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had an "operational partnership and joint involvement in carrying out the attacks of September 11." It is the Chairman’s additional views that are false; however, because, as his own report shows, no one in the Administration made such claims.
Sadly, media reports have failed to challenge these blatantly false claims. For those who wish to make partisan use of this report, they should understand it is based on distortions and misstatements. The original, unanimously passed report from 2004 has in no way been refuted by the fabrications in this document drafted by partisan Democratic staff.
I hope the Senate Intelligence Committee will now get back to the work of improving our national security. While election year politics may permeate Congress until November, members on the Intelligence Committees have a greater responsibility to reform and oversee the Intelligence Community and to the American families whose safety depends on our getting this job right.