From Yahoo! News
WASHINGTON – There’s no evidence Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Qaida, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence that Democrats say undercuts President Bush’s justification for invading Iraq.
Bush administration officials have insisted on a link between the Iraqi regime and terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Intelligence agencies, however, concluded there was none.Republicans countered that there was little new in the report and Democrats were trying to score election-year points with it.
The declassified document released Friday by the intelligence committee also explores the role that inaccurate information supplied by the anti-Saddam exile group the Iraqi National Congress had in the march to war.
It concludes that postwar findings do not support a 2002 intelligence community report that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program, possessed biological weapons or ever developed mobile facilities for producing biological warfare agents.
The 400-page report comes at a time when Bush is emphasizing the need to prevail in Iraq to win the war on terrorism while Democrats are seeking to make that policy an issue in the midterm elections.
It discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam’s government “did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates.”
Bush and other administration officials have said that the presence of Zarqawi in Iraq before the war was evidence of a connection between Saddam’s government and al-Qaida. Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in June this year.
White House press secretary Tony Snow said the report was “nothing new.”
“In 2002 and 2003, members of both parties got a good look at the intelligence we had and they came to the very same conclusions about what was going on,” Snow said. That was “one of the reasons you had overwhelming majorities in the United States Senate and the House for taking action against Saddam Hussein,” he said.
Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., a member of the committee, said the long-awaited report was “a devastating indictment of the Bush-Cheney administration’s unrelenting, misleading and deceptive attempts” to link Saddam to al-Qaida.
The administration, said Sen. John D. Rockefeller (news, bio, voting record), D-W.Va., top Democrat on the committee, “exploited the deep sense of insecurity among Americans in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, leading a large majority of Americans to believe â€” contrary to the intelligence assessments at the time â€” that Iraq had a role in the 9/11 attacks.”
But he said the Democratic interpretations expressed in the report “are little more than a vehicle to advance election-year political charges.” He said Democrats “continue to use the committee to try and rewrite history, insisting that they were deliberately duped into supporting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime.”
The panel report is Phase II of an analysis of prewar intelligence on Iraq. The first phase, issued in July 2004, focused on the CIA’s failings in its estimates of Iraq’s weapons program.
The second phase has been delayed as Republicans and Democrats fought over what information should be declassified and how much the committee should delve into the question of how policymakers may have manipulated intelligence to make the case for war.
The committee is still considering three other issues as part of its Phase II analysis, including statements of policymakers in the run up to the war.
On the Net:
Senate Intelligence Committee: http://intelligence.senate.gov/
OKAY. CAN WE IMPEACH THIS SOB NOW??????