CIA, White House in blame game over Iraq

A bitter dispute between the White House and various US security agencies is threatening to erupt over who is to blame for misjudging the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

    Tenet has accepted blame for accusations about Iraq's nuclear aims

    Many Democrats contend that Americans were misled into backing the US-led war against Iraq by members of the White House, including the president himself.

    Republicans are accusing George Tenet and the Central Intelligence Agency, saying they relied on disputed information and circumstantial evidence.

    For Republicans, CIA Director Tenet is a particularly easy target for criticism. He was appointed by Democrat President Bill Clinton and has so far survived the new administration.

    Earlier attack

    The opening salvos were fired this week when an early draft of a Senate Intelligence Committee report was leaked to The Washington Post.

    That draft, prepared by staff under the control of a Republican chairman, points to the CIA and other security agencies, saying they overstated both the threat of weapons of mass destruction and Baghdad's links with terrorism.

    Senior Democrat senators, who believe Bush should bear the burden of responsibility rather than the intelligence agencies, fired back yesterday.

    Democrats want to delay the report until the spring when a special team searching Iraq for evidence of its nuclear, germ and poison-gas warfare programmes delivers  its findings. No weapons of mass destruction have yet been found.

    “All I can tell you is that there is no report,” said Senator John Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, who promised to push the committee to examine the Bush administration's use, interpretation and presentation of intelligence reports.

    In the wake of the leaked draft, which lays the blame squarely on intelligence agencies and exonerates the president, Mr. Rockefeller, the committee's vice-chairman, denounced any rushed judgment.

    “I'm not going to characterize it as a whitewash,” he said. “I'm going to characterize it as a very incomplete matter.”

    “The executive was ill served by the intelligence community,” he added.

    Presidential card

    Democrats want to delay the report until the spring when a special team searching Iraq for evidence of its nuclear, germ and poison-gas warfare programmes delivers its findings. No weapons of mass destruction have yet been found.

    Were the argument delayed until the spring, Bush would be forced to deal with the issue in the middle of his presidential re-election campaign.

    The CIA is also now defending its corner.

    It is one of the few intelligence agencies with a press office and spokesman.

    The spokesman, Bill Harlow, said the committee still hadn't fully heard the CIA's side of the case or taken up an offer from Tenet to appear.

    So as the election approaches, the blame game is set only to intensify.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.