WASHINGTON, July 9 (UPI) -- The Senate Friday published the unclassified version of its scathing report on the United States' flawed pre-war intelligence about Iraq, with lawmakers from both parties saying the U.S. confrontation with Saddam Hussein might have ended very differently if the country's leaders knew then what they know now.
The report states that the central findings of the U.S. intelligence community, and in particular the CIA, that led to the 2003 military action against Iraq -- that Saddam's regime had biological and chemical weapons stockpiled and was trying to develop a nuclear bomb -- were inaccurate.
The conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies "either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence," according to the 521-page report.
Intelligence analysts got on an "assumption train," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, whose staff worked for a year to produce Friday's unanimously adopted report.
"Assessments were built or were based on previous judgments without carrying forward the uncertainty of those judgments," he explained.
The report also found that there was "a collective presumption" in the intelligence community -- shared globally by other spy agencies, the United Nations and many experts -- that Iraq "had an active and growing weapons of mass destruction program."
This "groupthink" led analysts and their managers to play up ambiguous evidence that supported the thesis and play down anything that seemed to undermine it.
The report states that officials did not adequately caveat or qualify their conclusions, given the paucity of hard information upon which most of them were based.
Analysts have to make a clear distinction, said Roberts, "between what they know, what they don't know (and) what they think. ... As the report details, they did not do this." As a result, he said, policymakers -- in both the executive and the legislative branches -- remained in the dark about key uncertainties.
Roberts said that these errors accounted for repeated statements that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction made by the administration and in particular the president. But he warned about the danger of those in glass houses throwing stones.
President Bush "made very declarative statements," he said, but added, "We all did. Look at the statements that we've all made -- some of the people who are now being so terribly critical. We believed it. But the information was wrong."
But Democrats took a different view, arguing both that the flawed intelligence did not vindicate the president and that the flaws were largely the ultimate fault of his administration, which had pressured analysts to come up with the conclusions they wanted.
"Bad intelligence and bad policy are not mutually exclusive," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. "You can have both. And I happen to think that's what you had here."
"It is no coincidence," stated Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., in an appendix offering additional views of committee Democrats, "that the analytical errors ... all broke in one direction."
He said the analysis was produced "in a highly pressurized climate wherein senior administration officials were making the case for military action against Iraq through public and often definitive pronouncements."
Nevertheless, Rockefeller told reporters Friday that there would have been no invasion of Iraq without the flawed intelligence.
"We in Congress would not have authorized that war," he emphasized, "if we knew what we know now."
Roberts said he did not know how the vote would have gone but that he would probably still have supported military action. He argued that the war would have simply taken a different form -- a humanitarian intervention of the type the United States had supported in Bosnia and Kosovo.
"I think it would have been argued differently," he said. "I think perhaps that the battle plan would be different. ... But yes, I think I would have voted that way."
The committee found one area in which the CIA's "judgments were reasonable, based on the available intelligence" according to Roberts -- the question of links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida.
"The agency was also more careful to inform policymakers about uncertainties with their analysis," Roberts pointed out.
Democrats were particularly scathing about the CIA's National Intelligence Assessment -- the document that set out the extent of U.S. knowledge about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, calling it "a rushed and sloppy product ... hastily cobbled together using stale, fragmentary and speculative intelligence reports and replete with factual errors and unsupported judgments."
They also complained that it had to be requested by senators and was "forwarded to members of Congress mere days before votes would be taken to authorize the use of military force."
Democrats also said they were frustrated by what was not in the report -- an examination of how policymakers had used the intelligence.
"The central issue of how intelligence on Iraq was -- in this senator's opinion -- ... exaggerated by Bush administration officials, was relegated to that second phase, as yet unbegun, of the committee investigation, along with other issues," said Rockefeller.
Republicans said that the shortness of the legislative session remaining before November meant that the second phase would likely not be ready until after the election.
Large portions of the report were redacted by the CIA, although Roberts said that the committee had made progress during six weeks of negotiations.
Among the redactions are almost the entirety of two sections likely to be embarrassing to the CIA, according to the National Security Archive at George Washington University. The section following the conclusion that the CIA provided bad information to Secretary of State Colin Powell for his February 2003 United Nations address; and the discussion that follows the report's finding that the CIA's public presentation of Iraq intelligence in October 2002 misled the country by leaving out the caveats present in the classified versions.
Roberts said the committee would continue to work to get more declassified. "We're not giving up," he said.
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