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US spies in cold on Iraq, in the dark on Iran: Report

Washington, March 31 (Reuters): US intelligence on Iraq was 'dead wrong,' dealing a blow to American credibility that will take years to undo, and spymasters still know disturbingly little about nuclear programmes in countries like Iran and North Korea, a presidential commission reported today.

The commission's bluntly written report, based on more than a year of investigations, offered a damning assessment of the intelligence that President George W. Bush used to launch the Iraq war two years ago and warned that flaws are still all too common throughout spy agencies.

'We conclude that the intelligence community was dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction,' the commissioners wrote.

And at a time when the US is accusing Iran of nuclear ambitions and pressuring North Korea on its nuclear programmes, the report said: 'Across the board, the intelligence community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programmes of many of the world's most dangerous actors.' The presidential commission called for a broad overhaul in the spy community to increase information-sharing and foster dissenting views.

'The flaws we found in the intelligence community's Iraq performance are still all too common,' they wrote.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the President agreed the intelligence community needs fundamental change. He said its recommendations would be reviewed and acted on 'in a fairly quick period of time.'

A key chapter in the report ' on US intelligence on alleged nuclear weapons programmes in Iran and North Korea ' was classified and not released publicly. But sources familiar with that section said it was among the most critical, finding US intelligence on Iran's nuclear programme in particular to be inadequate.

The White House has acknowledged intelligence shortcomings ' national security adviser Stephen Hadley called data on Iran 'hard to come by' ' but the administration has made clear it stands by its policy of pre-emption.

The 600-page report sharply criticised the intelligence-gathering on Iraq by the CIA and other agencies for producing 'worthless or misleading' intelligence before a war fought over claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

 

 

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