Congressional Investigation of Pre-Iraq War Intelligence

Materials presented in chronological order.

Priest, Dana, and Walter Pincus. "Hill Probers Fault Iraq Intelligence: Panels' Early Findings Are Similar to Kay's." Washington Post, 30 Jan. 2004, A1. []

According to congressional officials, "[t]he House and Senate intelligence committees have unearthed a series of failures in prewar intelligence on Iraq similar to those identified by former weapons inspector David Kay, leading them to believe that CIA analysts and their superiors did not seriously consider the possibility Saddam Hussein no longer possessed weapons of mass destruction.... The committees, working separately for the past seven months, have determined that the CIA relied too heavily on circumstantial, outdated intelligence and became overly dependent on satellite and spy-plane imagery and communications intercepts."

Priest, Dana. "No Evidence CIA Slanted Iraq Data: Probers Say Analysts Remained Consistent." Washington Post, 31 Jan. 2004, A1. []

According to intelligence and congressional officials, Congressional and CIA investigations "have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials." Former DDCI Richard J. Kerr, leading the CIA's review of its prewar Iraq assessment, "said an examination of the ... work done by CIA analysts showed that it remained consistent over many years." Kerr's findings "mirror" those of separate probes by the HPSCI and SSCI, "which have interviewed, under oath, every analyst involved in assessing Iraq's weapons programs and terrorist ties."

Priest, Dana. "Senate Panel Expands Probe of Iraq Data: Inquiry to Determine Whether Information Was Exaggerated to Make Case for War." Washington Post, 13 Feb. 2004, A23. []

On 12 February 2004, the SSCI voted "to expand its investigation into the prewar intelligence on Iraq by probing whether President Bush and other top administration officials exaggerated intelligence information to make a case for war, a move Republicans on the panel had resisted for months.... For the past eight months, the committee has been investigating the underlying judgments that went into the intelligence assessments on Iraq. That part of the probe is to be completed by the end of March. The new findings will be contained in a second report to be released months later."

Risen, James. "How Pair's Finding on Terror Led to Clash on Shaping Intelligence." New York Times, 28 Apr. 2004. []

The SSCI "is investigating whether" the two-person Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, created by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith, "exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq to justify the war.... Whether its findings influenced the thinking of policy makers or merely provided talking points that buttressed long-held views, the unit played a role in the administration's evolving effort to define the threat of Iraq -- and sell it to the public."

Burger, Timothy J., and Douglas Waller. "Closing in on Tenet: The Senate May Deliver a Harsh Assesment of the CIA Director." Time, 22 May 2004. []

The SSCI "is getting closer to delivering a scathing report on the CIA's prewar intelligence on Iraq.... The panel last week sent Tenet the several-hundred-page report -- minus its conclusions -- for a declassification review."

Jehl, Douglas. "Report Blames Agencies Over Prewar Intelligence." New York Times, 4 Jun. 2004. []

"George J. Tenet's resignation may have been hastened" by the SSCI's "critical, 400-page report" presented to the CIA for comment last month. "Government officials and people close to Mr. Tenet said the classified report was a detailed account of mistakes and miscalculations by American intelligence agencies on whether Iraq possessed illicit weapons before the United States invaded last year. An unclassified version of the report is to be made public this month."

U.S. Congress. Senate. Select Committee on Intelligence. "Senate Intelligence Committee Unanimously Approves Pre-War Intelligence Report." Press Release, 17 Jun. 2004. [Available at:]

On 17 June 2004, the SSCI "voted unanimously to approve its report on pre-war intelligence regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, ties to terrorists, threat to regional stability and violations of human rights.... The Committee is currently engaged with the Central Intelligence Agency over the issue of classification. The Committee is extremely disappointed by the CIA's excessive redactions to the report. Our goal is to release publicly as much of the report's findings and conclusions as soon as possible. We will work toward that goal, as we continue our work on phase two of the Committee's review."

U.S. Congress. Senate. Select Committee on Intelligence. Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq. 7 Jul. 2004 [released on 9 Jul. 2004]. [Available at:; and at:]

Durbin, Richard J. "Holes in America's Defense." Washington Post, 9 Jul. 2004, A19. []

Senator Durbin (D-IL) argues that while the SSCI report "reveals in stark terms that in many key areas, the prewar intelligence regarding Iraq's threat to the United States was neither reliable nor accurate," it "tells only half of the story." Missing from the report are "the ways intelligence was used, misused, misinterpreted or ignored by administration policymakers in deciding to go to war and in making the case to the American people that war with Iraq was necessary.... [W]e have a report that asks only some of the right questions and, at best, comes to only some of the right conclusions."

Priest, Dana, and Dafna Linzer. "Panel Condemns Iraq Prewar Intelligence: Senate Report Faults 2002 Estimate Sent to Hill, Accuses the CIA of 'Group-Think.'" Washington Post, 10 Jul. 2004, A1. []

The SSCI's report on pre-Iraq war intelligence, released on 9 July 2004, says that "[t]he U.S. intelligence community gave lawmakers debating whether to wage war on Iraq a deeply flawed and exaggerated assessment of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.... The report refutes every major weapons assessment laid out in a key 2002 intelligence estimate provided to lawmakers before the war and cited by Bush administration officials to justify publicly the case for an invasion. The findings also offer a broad indictment of the way the CIA carried out its core mission, accusing the agency's leadership of succumbing to 'group-think,' of being too cautious to slip spies into Iraq and of failing to tell policymakers how weak their information really was."

The panel agreed "with the CIA's conclusion that 'there was no evidence proving Iraqi complicity or assistance in an al Qaeda attack,' including the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.... Senate aides ... said they found no evidence that junior or senior officials knowingly distorted or withheld information to make a particular case. Nor did they find evidence of undue political pressure by policymakers. But they did conclude that contradictory information was often ignored or dismissed."

New York Times. "[Editorial:] The Senate Report." 10 Jul 2004. []

"[W]hat comes through [in the SSCI report] is thoroughly damning. Put simply, the Bush administration's intelligence analysts cooked the books to give Congress and the public the impression that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was developing nuclear arms, that he was plotting to give such weapons to terrorists, and that he was an imminent threat. These assertions formed the basis of Mr. Bush's justifications for war. But the report said that they were wrong and were not a true picture of the intelligence, and that the intelligence itself was not worth much."

Washington Post. "[Editorial:] The Intelligence Mess." 10 Jul. 2004, A18. [http://www.]

"The Senate intelligence committee has added considerable authority and detail to the judgment that the U.S. intelligence community's estimates about Iraq were badly wrong, both in their conclusions and in the way they were prepared.... The [CIA] says it has already made changes in response to Iraq and to the failure to foresee the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But its response remains defensive and inadequate -- and a broader rethinking of the intelligence community may be necessary to tackle the problems the report describes in the CIA's relationship with other agencies. Mr. Bush is weighing the appointment of a new CIA director; he should look for someone capable of revitalizing the agency and forging a bipartisan consensus on its structure and priorities."

Cushman, John H., Jr. "Panel Describes Long Weakening of Hussein Army." New York Times, 11 Jul. 2004. []

"The Senate's report on prewar intelligence about Iraq, which asserts that warnings about its illicit weapons were largely unfounded and that its ties to Al Qaeda were tenuous, also undermines another justification for the war: that Saddam Hussein's military posed a threat to regional stability and American interests. In a detailed discussion of Iraq's prewar military posture, the report cites a long series of intelligence reports in the decade before the war that described a formerly potent army's spiral of decay under the pressures of economic sanctions and American military pressure."

Sanger, David E. "Despite Terror Risk, Washington Is Unlikely to Press Reform of C.I.A. This Year." New York Times, 11 Jul. 2004. []

"Despite a scorching Senate report that describes a profound breakdown of the American intelligence system at a time of increasing terror threats, both White House officials and Congressional leaders say the political calendar will prevent any serious action until after the November elections."

Heuer, Richards J., Jr. “Limits of Intelligence Analysis.” Orbis 49, no. 1 (2004): 75-94.

The range of the criticisms of the Intelligence Community in the SSCI's Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq is illustrative of a lack of understanding of the problems faced by intelligence analysts in making judgments based on incomplete, ambiguous, and potentially deceptive information.

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