The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Senate slams spy agencies
- Panel absolves Bush team

Washington, July 9 (Reuters): US intelligence agencies overstated the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ignored contrary evidence in the run-up to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, a Senate committee reported today.

In a harshly critical report, partly blacked out for security reasons, the Senate Intelligence Committee took US spy agencies to task for numerous failures in their reporting on alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons have been found. But the committee absolved the Bush administration of charges that it put pressure on analysts to reach pre-set conclusions.

The report, which ran to more than 500 pages, said that conclusions in an October 2002 national intelligence estimate on Iraqi weapons programmes “either overstated or were not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting. A series of failures, particularly in analytical trade craft, led to the mischaracterisation of the intelligence.”

President George W. Bush relied on US intelligence suggesting that Iraq was aggressively pursuing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes as a key justification for his decision to go to war in 2003. The bipartisan committee said it found no evidence that administration officials pressured agencies to change their judgments on Iraq weapons programmes.

“The committee did not find any evidence that administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities,” it said.

It specifically cleared vice- president Dick Cheney, a leading advocate of the war, of charges that he tried to bend the evidence to fit his agenda.

“The committee found no evidence that the vice-president’s visits to the CIA were attempts to pressure analysts, were perceived as intended to pressure analysts by those who participated in the briefings on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programmes, or did pressure analysts to change their assessments,” the report said.

CIA director George Tenet, who reportedly told Bush that it was a “slam dunk” that Iraq had such weapons before the war, announced his resignation last month and will step down tomorrow. The report said,“Most, if not all, of these problems stem from a broken corporate culture and poor management, and will not be solved by additional funding and personnel.”

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