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    US intelligence 'dead wrong' on Iraq weapons


    US intelligence 'dead wrong' on Iraq weapons

    Tom Lee Jasoin, |04:00,1 april 2005|.

    US intelligence agencies were "dead wrong" in their pre-war assessments of Iraq's weapons programs and still know dangerously little about current nuclear and biological threats, a US presidential commission said.

    After a year-long inquiry, the panel warned in a scathing report that the decision to invade Iraq in March 2003, based on accusations that turned out to be false, had done damage to US credibility that "will take years to undo."

    "We conclude that the intelligence community was dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," the commission said. "We simply cannot afford failures of this magnitude."

    The panel warned that US intelligence on the capabilities and intentions of Iran and North Korea -- both locked in nuclear disputes with the United States -- may be "disturbingly" shaky. A chapter on the subject was classified.

    US President George W. Bush welcomed the report and said he had directed his homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, to review the 600-page document and take "concrete action" on its recommendations.

    "The central conclusion is one that I share: America's intelligence community needs fundamental change to enable us to successfully confront the threats of the 21st century," he said in remarks at the White House.

    The panel called for bolstering the powers of the newly created director of national intelligence -- former US ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte awaits confirmation to that post -- as part of creating more centralized management and integrating what it described as a loose grouping of independence agencies.

    "To win the war on terror, we will correct what needs to be fixed," Bush said with the commission's co-chairman, former federal judge Laurence Silberman and ex-senator Charles Robb, at his side.

    The report took the US intelligence community severely to task for a series of shortcomings it said led to the false conclusion that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, justifying the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

    It cited analysis compromised by assumptions about Saddam's intentions following the 1991 Gulf War; data collection problems; and the failure to communicate to policymakers just how little hard intelligence they had.

    "The bottom line is the intelligence community operated on presumptions or assumptions based on what they had seen in 1991," Silberman told reporters. "What little evidence they did have, which was inconsistent, was tortured into those presumptions."

    The commission report said it found no evidence that political pressures had warped US intelligence findings on Iraq, but steered clear of whether the Bush administration had exaggerated the intelligence to sell the war.

    At the same time, the panel said that flaws that crippled analysis of Iraq "are still all too common" and warned that US intelligence on countries like Iran and North Korea lacks critical information.

    "The bad news is that we still know disturbingly little about the weapons programs and even less about the intentions of many of our most dangerous adversaries," the commission said.

    "Across the board, the intelligence community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the worlds most dangerous actors. In some cases, it knows less now than it did five or 10 years ago," it said.

    White House spokesman Scott McClellan said there were no plans to change US policy toward Tehran or Pyongyang, and other officials declined to say whether current US policy of "preemptive" military action would change.

    Tehran denies the charge that its civilian nuclear program hides a quest for atomic weapons. North Korea boasts that it has nuclear arms.

    The commission warned that the US intelligence community also "has not kept pace" with the spread of weapons of mass destruction and eagerness among terrorists like those behind the September 11, 2001 attacks to get them.

    The presidential commission had some good news on at least one front, praising "innovative" US intelligence efforts on Libya's now-abandoned nuclear arms program as "fundamentally a success story."

    It said the use of new techniques to penetrate the global sales network of Pakistan's disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan "allowed the US government to pressure Libya into dismantling these programs."

    The United States invaded Iraq on grounds that Saddam possessed chemical and biological weapons and sought nuclear arms, but none has been found and US-led forces have abandoned searching for them.

    The White House has since shifted its public rationale for the invasion from the weapons to the oppressive nature of Saddam's regime and what Washington says is the need to spread democracy in the Middle East.  - .


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