No WMDs found yet in Iraq
But Republican Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, blocked a full-fledged congressional investigation into the simmering controversy.

With the 2004 elections fast approaching, it is an issue that could prove to be damaging to the Republicans in next year's campaign.

Roberts, and the ranking committee Democrat, Senator Jay Rockefeller appeared to disagree on what to call the joint work. Roberts referred to it us as a “review”, while Rockefeller used the word “inquiry”.

In their joint statement, the committee made clear that their probe would involve a more detailed investigation rather than an overview of documents from the CIA and other US intelligence organisations.

The committee will be examining “the quantity and quality” of US intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programmes – and “the objectivity, reasonableness, independence, and accuracy of the judgements reached by the intelligence community.”

Vice President Dick Cheney (R)
made many visits to the CIA in
the lead up to the war on Iraq

They added that they will also try to find out whether conclusions made were “properly disseminated to policy makers in the executive branch and Congress”, and “whether any influence was brought to bear on anyone to shape their analysis to support policy objectives.”

"The committee will use whatever tools of oversight it deems necessary to complete its work, including, but not limited to, document review and requests, interviews, closed and open hearings, as appropriate, and preparation of findings and recommendations," Roberts and Rockefeller said in the statement.

Nevertheless, the probe is much weaker than a full-fledged congressional investigation, which usually involves special panels that have subpoena power, professional investigators, and open hearings with a substantive final report.

Some Democrats though would prefer to see a full probe to confirm whether or not there were intelligence failings before the war.

"A substantial number of senators decided to vote to authorize use of force, including myself, because of the arguments that were put forward by the administration about the intelligence that was presented to us," Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein said.

US President George W Bush has insisted that Iraq represented an imminent threat due to their alleged chemical and nuclear weapons programmes.

Ten weeks after the war however, US forces have failed to discover any evidence of the banned weapons. 

This has led to speculation that the Bush administration had used its intelligence selectively, or pressured the intelligence community to come up with information to their liking, regardless of the sources.

The House Intelligence Committee is also conducting parallel hearings into the matter.