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Senators demand CIA documents on prewar intelligence about Iraq

WASHINGTON—The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee demanded Wednesday that CIA Director George Tenet turn over documents concerning prewar intelligence assessments about Iraq by week's end.

Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who are overseeing an investigation into the accuracy of U.S. intelligence about Iraq and its weapons potential, said some committee requests for data "have gone unanswered since July."

The letter turns up the heat of the committee's investigation into prewar spy data and how it was communicated to administration officials. The two senators had been feuding over the scope of the committee probe, but their cooperation signals that the CIA is facing tougher congressional scrutiny as the number of casualties in Iraq continues to rise.

In blunt and angry terms, they also reminded Tenet of his promise to explain inconsistencies in intelligence reports about alleged efforts by Iraq to purchase uranium "yellowcake" from Niger, an accusation that has since been discounted.

"Despite repeated attempts by our staff to obtain your response, none has been provided," Roberts and Rockefeller wrote. They insisted that all documents be turned over and all remaining interviews with intelligence officials be scheduled by noon EST Friday.

The senators' letter was in response to a letter from Tenet dated Friday in which the CIA director called on the committee to conduct an investigation that was as "complete and thoughtful as possible." Tenet was reacting to a Washington Post article reporting that the committee's investigation was nearly complete and would portray the CIA's work before the war as flawed.

In his letter, portions of which were confirmed by Knight Ridder, Tenet said the CIA had turned over "binders of material relating to the October 2002 NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, support for terrorism and possible acquisition of yellowcake from Niger."

"In addition to that material, we have been compiling material relating to our coverage of these subjects for a period of over 10 years," Tenet said. "We will provide the additional material as soon as possible."

Roberts and Rockefeller countered that the information should have been provided five months ago.

"It is our desire that the committee's review will serve to validate the good work of the intelligence community and, where necessary, provide corrective suggestions where the intelligence product might have been better," the senators' letter said.

CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said the agency had just received the letter and planned to review it. "The intelligence community has been working hard to fulfill the committee's request and will continue to do so," he said.

One intelligence official, however, said there are vast amounts of data, going back 10 years, on Iraq. "We provided them with enormous amounts of information," the official said, on the condition of anonymity. "On an issue like Iraq, with which we have done so much over the years, we continue to come up with information that we think would be of value to the committee."

Despite their unified front Wednesday, Roberts and Rockefeller continue to disagree on how far to take the committee's investigation. Rockefeller wants to examine whether the data was misused or exaggerated by administration officials. Roberts said he wants to keep the committee's work focused on intelligence gathering.

Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said Wednesday that Democrats may file their own minority report on how the administration used intelligence.

"What we also have to do is to examine how that intelligence was used and whether we are so twisting and distorting what information is provided to meet the objectives, policy-wise, of the administration that it renders much of the information provided as useless," he said.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.