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Pat Roberts Lies, NY Times Prints It
No Evidence of Pressure on Iraq Data, Senator Says
By ERIC LICHTBLAU, New York Times
WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 - With Democrats stepping up their attacks over prewar intelligence on Iraq, the Republican leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee said on Sunday that the panel's initial work had found no evidence of "political manipulation or pressure" in the use of such intelligence.
This week the committee expects to begin circulating among its members draft reports on the question of whether the administration manipulated or distorted intelligence on Iraq in making its case for war, said the chairman, Pat Roberts of Kansas.
Mr. Roberts did not say what the draft reports would conclude. But he did make clear that past work by his committee and other commissions did not point to any evidence that made him believe that intelligence had been distorted.
As part of a report released last year by his committee that found widespread intelligence failures on Iraq's weapons capabilities, "we interviewed over 250 analysts and we specifically asked them: 'Was there any political manipulation or pressure?' Answer: 'No,' " Mr. Roberts said on "Face the Nation" on CBS.
Studies by the independent Robb-Silberman commission, appointed by the president, as well as the similar Butler commission in Britain reached the "same conclusion," said Mr. Roberts, who has been a staunch supporter of the administration's policies on Iraq.
Democrats have accused the Republicans - and Mr. Roberts in particular - of dragging their feet on the Intelligence Committee's study, begun some 20 months ago. Frustration over the pace of the inquiry led Senate Democratic leaders to invoke a rare procedural rule last week, sending the Senate into a special closed session.
Democrats said they had been driven to act by the indictment of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on charges of obstruction and perjury, charges that were related to the disclosure of the name of a Central Intelligence Agency operative whose husband had been a vocal critic of prewar intelligence.
In addition, articles published Sunday in The New York Times and The Washington Post showed that Defense Department intelligence analysts warned in February 2002 that a top member of Al Qaeda was a likely fabricator, months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as a foundation for its claims that Iraq had trained Qaeda members in the use of biological and chemical weapons.
Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said Sunday of the reports: "Once again, we have another important example of where the administration was warned that information was questionable, yet they turned around and presented it as fact to the American people.
"This most recent example underscores just how important it is that the Senate Intelligence Committee get to the bottom of whether this administration knowingly misrepresented intelligence in making their case for war," he said.
The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, asked on Sunday about the articles on the Qaeda fabricator, did not address the issue specifically but said that both Republicans and Democrats, including those in the Clinton administration, "came to the same conclusion, that Saddam Hussein was a threat and a threat that needed to be addressed."
Pointing to the findings of the Robb-Silberman commission, he said that "we've taken steps to make sure that we have the best possible intelligence" and that "we are acting to address the problems."
Democrats have sought to link Mr. Libby's prosecution to the use of intelligence on Iraq, and on Sunday they stepped up calls for greater accountability at the White House for anyone implicated in the Libby case.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said on "Meet the Press" on NBC that Karl Rove, the senior presidential adviser, "should leave" the White House because he was found to have had discussions with reporters about the C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson. And even some Republicans suggested that a housecleaning was in order.
"The president should be, in my opinion, reviewing and analyzing and putting some deep perspective into who's around him at the White House," said Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, on "This Week" on ABC. "And if I was the president, I think I'd want to enlarge and widen that group, and start making some serious review and inventory of what has happened in the last five years that's gotten him into so much trouble."