Democrats say intelligence
reports on WMD were inflated

But they agreed on Wednesday to hold oversight hearings and review US intelligence reports that accused Iraq of possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The Bush administration justified its war against Iraq based on Baghdad's alleged threat for possessing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he would not allow the WMD issue to be used as a political tool.

“There seems to be a campaign afoot by some to criticize the intelligence community and the President,”  he said.

Roberts said criticism levelled against US intelligence bodies would create “divisiveness” with the intelligence committee and the Defence Department.

The Republican chairmen of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee echoed Roberts’ rejection for an inquiry.

Roberts said various committees in charge of supervising intelligence gathering activities would investigate and interview witnesses before an official inquiry was launched.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s top Democrat Carl Levin and Democrat Senator John Rockefeller, a member of the Intelligence Committee, have called for a more official investigation.

“Hyped” intelligence?

Some Democrats say the Bush administration “hyped” intelligence findings, drawing upon the most dire conclusions to justify Washington’s push for war against Iraq to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Rockefeller described the Republicans’ plan for oversight hearings as “entirely inadequate and slow-placed”.

“I’m not sure whether they really wanted to get to the crux of what really happened,” he said, adding he would continue pressing for a broad inquiry.

Roberts said next week they would review intelligence documents in closed hearings. 

“We’ve got to make sure that the CIA does not embellish or distort in any way the intelligence information in order to advance a policy of any administration,” said Levin.

Media reports recently cited unnamed US officials as saying they felt pressured to slant intelligence. Roberts said no one has approached him with such concerns.