Republicans of the Week
On Thursday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued its long-awaited report on prewar Iraq intelligence. Its findings are damning. The report says President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney knowingly lied to Congress and the public about Iraq's weapons cache and the country's ties to al-Qaeda.
Two Republicans, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine, sided with Democrats in voting 10-5 for the release of the report's final phase during committee deliberation. Otherwise, the vote would obviously have been a completely partisan 8-7.
Hagel and Snowe offered a view different from the majority's in a joint statement:
We expect future administrations to learn from this comprehensive review and avoid making similar mistakes. While the process by which the committee drafted and approved the reports could have been significantly improved, their release is important, if long overdue.The two reports were the final parts of the committee’s so-called “phase two” investigation of prewar intelligence on Iraq and related issues. The first phase of the inquiry, begun in the summer of 2003 and published in July 2004, identified grave faults in the Central Intelligence Agency’s analysis of the threat posed by Mr. Hussein.
The report about the Bush administration’s public statements does shed some new detail about the intelligence information available to policymakers as they built a case for war. In September 2002, for instance, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the Iraq problem cannot be solved by airstrikes alone” because Iraqi chemical and biological weapons were so deeply buried that they could not be penetrated by American bombs.
Two months later, however, the National Intelligence Council wrote an assessment for Mr. Rumsfeld concluding that the Iraqi underground weapons facilities identified by the intelligence agencies “are vulnerable to conventional, precision-guided, penetrating munitions because they are not deeply buried.”
Here are the key points from the reports, according to a press release from Sen. Jay Rockefeller's office:
- 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 the intelligence.
- Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.
- Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.
- Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq's chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community's uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.
- The Secretary of Defense's statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information.
- The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed.