“It is our desire that the committee’s review will serve to validate the good work of the intelligence community and, where necessary, provide corrective suggestions where the intelligence product might have been better,” said a joint letter on Wednesday from committee chairman Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican and senior Democrat Senator John Rockefeller of West Virginia.
“We expect to receive all documents and schedule all interviews by 12pm(1700 GMT) October 31, 2003,” the letter to CIA Director George Tenet said. It did not say what would happen if the deadline was not met.
The senators were responding to a letter from Tenet dated 24 October that said the CIA had provided the committee with “binders of material relating to the October 2002 NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, support for terrorism and possible acquisition of yellowcake from Niger.”
“In addition to that material, we have been compiling material relating to our coverage of these subjects for a period of over 10 years,” Tenet said. “We will provide the additional material as soon as possible.”
The senators called that phrase “troubling,” saying their committee should have been given the information five months ago.
They said the CIA had not yet explained “the various disconnects and inconsistencies in the assessments concerning the Niger uranium issue.”
“We will provide the additional material as soon as possible”
Controversy erupted after President George Bush said in his State of the Union Address weeks prior to the Iraq invasion that Baghdad was trying to obtain uranium from Africa, a claim that was later found to have been faulty. The White House has said it should not have been included in the January speech.
The Senate and House intelligence panels are each reviewing pre-war intelligence that suggested Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction, which have so far not been found.
Top lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee in September told Tenet in a letter that intelligence agencies had “significant deficiencies” in collecting information about Iraq’s WMD programmes and alleged ties to al-Qaida.
The Senate panel report is expected to express concerns about the quality and accuracy of pre-war intelligence assessments.