US WMD hearing to open

The United States House of Representatives Intelligence Committee will hold its first hearing on Wednesday on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) amid allegations that US officials over-exaggerated the threat posed by Baghdad.

    Anti-war protests gripped
    Washington before the invasion

    Also at issue is whether intelligence analysts were pressured, or felt they were pressured to produce results that would help policymakers justify launching a war against Iraq.

    US President, George W Bush, made his case to invade Iraq based on what he said were intelligence findings that Baghdad's possession of WMD made it a security threat.

    Lawmakers on the House panel will question intelligence analysts at the closed-door hearing about the factors that went into compiling the intelligence reports on Iraq’s alleged weapons programme.

    The hearing will focus on a classified report produced in October.

    Lawmakers planned to raise the questions about the process through which the report was put together, how the information was used and whether it differed from other intelligence estimates, said congressional aides.

    No WMD found

    Since the war started in 20 March, US forces have not yet come up with any nuclear, chemical or biological arms, amid mounting calls for hard evidence that Baghdad posed a threat to the world.

    Witnesses at the hearing will include analysts from the National Intelligence Council, a government think tank.

    It produces reports by combining assessments from various intelligence agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Pentagon and State Department.

    The House Intelligence Committee plans to hold another closed hearing on Thursday on current efforts to locate alleged WMD.

    The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a meeting on Wednesday at which Republicans and Democrats will discuss how to proceed on the controversial issue.

    Both House and Senate committees are reviewing pre-war intelligence documents on Iraq produced by various agencies.



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