Last updated on: 1/26/2009 5:17:00 AM PST
Did Congress have the same intelligence information as the White House prior to the October 2002 congressional vote authorizing the use of force in Iraq?
George W. Bush, MBA, US President, stated in a Nov. 11, 2005 speech commemorating Veterans Day:
"More than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power."
Nov. 11, 2005 - George W. Bush, MBA
The Commission of the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (CICUSRWMD), a presidential committee led by co-chairs Laurence Silberman and Charles Robb, stated in its Mar. 31, 2005 report:
"The President’s Daily Brief (PDB) [not routinely shared with Congress] and...its more widely distributed companion, the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) [shared with Congress]...were, if anything, more alarmist and less nuanced than the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate, shared with Congress].
It was not that the intelligence was markedly different. Rather, it was that the PDBs and SEIBs, with their attention-grabbing headlines and drumbeat of repetition, left an impression of many corroborating reports where in fact there were very few sources.
And in other instances, intelligence suggesting the existence of weapons programs was conveyed to senior policymakers, but later information casting doubt upon the validity of that intelligence was not. In ways both subtle and not so subtle, the daily reports seemed to be 'selling' intelligence — in order to keep its customers, or at least the First Customer, interested."
Mar. 31, 2005 - Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (CICUSRWMD)
FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in a Nov. 19, 2005 article "Iraq: What Did Congress Know, And When?":
"The President says Democrats in Congress 'had access to the same intelligence' he did before the Iraq war, but some Democrats deny it. 'That was not true,' says Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. 'He withheld some intelligence. . . . The intelligence was corrupted.'
Neither side is giving the whole story in this continuing dispute.
The President's main point is correct: the CIA and most other US intelligence agencies believed before the war that Saddam had stocks of biological and chemical weapons, was actively working on nuclear weapons and 'probably' would have a nuclear weapon before the end of this decade. That faulty intelligence was shared with Congress – along with multiple mentions of some doubts within the intelligence community – in a formal National Intelligence Estimate just prior to the Senate and House votes to authorize the use of force against Iraq.
No hard evidence has surfaced to support claims that Bush somehow manipulated the findings of intelligence analysts. In fact, two bipartisan investigations probed for such evidence and said they found none. So Dean's claim that intelligence was 'corrupted' is unsupported."
Nov. 19, 2005 - FactCheck.org / Annenberg Political Fact Check
The Wall Street Journal, in a Nov. 3, 2005 editorial titled "The Clare Luce Democrats: How They're Lying About 'He Lied Us Into War,'" wrote:
"The scandal here isn't what happened before the war. The scandal is that the same Democrats who saw the same intelligence that Mr. Bush saw, who drew the same conclusions, and who voted to go to war are now using the difficulties we've encountered in that conflict as an excuse to rewrite history."
Nov. 3, 2005 - Wall Street Journal
Terry Jeffrey, Editor of Human Events, stated on the Nov. 2, 2005 CNN show The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer:
"BLITZER: But they [the Democrats] say they were misled by the intelligence, and it was deliberately manipulated by the vice president, the president, in order to justify going to war and they want an investigation. The American people, they say, deserve answers.
JEFFREY: Right. And if that were true, it would be an outrageous thing. And obviously, the American people deserve an answer to that question. In large part we've already got it.
I think we have to remember, Wolf, the CIA director at this time was George Tenet, appointed by Bill Clinton. He vouched for all of this intelligence. The intelligence that Dianne Feinstein used when she voted to authorize that war in October of 2002, provided -- a national intelligence estimate, provided by the CIA, directly to the Senate. We know already from the Senate investigation, it was the same information the president and vice president had. It was bad intelligence, but the Senate and the president had the same intelligence, it came from the CIA."
Nov. 2, 2005 - Terence P. Jeffrey
Dianne Feinstein, US Senator (D-CA), in a Dec. 15, 2005 announcement titled "Senator Feinstein Releases Nonpartisan CRS Report That Concludes Congress Did Not Have Access to Full Scope of Prewar Intelligence," stated:
"When the Senate voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq in 2002, it was based on a more limited scope of prewar intelligence than was available to the Administration."
Dec. 15, 2005 - Dianne Feinstein
Alfred Cumming, Specialist in Intelligence and National Security for the Congressional Research Service, in a Dec. 14, 2005 memorandum to Senator Dianne Feinstien (D-CA) on the subject of "Congress as a Consumer of Intelligence Information," wrote:
"The President, and a small number of presidentially-designated Cabinet-level officials, including the Vice President -- in contrast to Members of Congress -- have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods. They, unlike Members of Congress, also have the authority to more extensively task the Intelligence Community, and its extensive cadre of analysts, for follow-up information. As a result, the President and his most senior advisors arguable are better positioned to assess the quality of the Community's intelligence more accurately than is Congress.
In addition to their greater access to intelligence, the President and his senior advisors also are better equipped than is Congress to assess intelligence information by virtue of the primacy of their roles in formulating U.S. foreign policy. Their foreign policy responsibilities often require active, sustained, and often personal interaction, with senior officials of many of the same countries targeted for intelligence collection by the Intelligence Community. Thus the president and his senior advisors are uniquely positioned to glean additional information and impressions -- information that, like certain sensitive intelligence information, is generally unavailable to Congress -- that can provide them with an important additional perspective with which to judge the quality of intelligence."
Dec. 14, 2005 - Alfred Cumming
Bob Kerrey, former US Senator (D-NE), on the Oct. 8, 2004 edition of CNN's American Morning, stated:
"The president has much more access to intelligence than members of Congress does. Ask any member of Congress. Ask a Republican member of Congress, do you get the same access to intelligence that the president does?
Look at these aluminum tube stories that came out the president delivered to the Congress -- we believe these would be used for centrifuges, didn't deliver to Congress the full range of objections from the Department of Energy experts, nuclear weapons experts, that said it's unlikely they were for centrifuges, more likely that they were for rockets, which was a pre-existing use. The president has much more access to intelligence than any member of Congress."
Oct. 8, 2004 - Bob Kerrey
The New York Times, in a Nov. 15, 2005 editorial titled "Decoding Mr. Bush's Denials," stated:
"Mr. Bush says everyone had the same intelligence he had - Mr. Clinton and his advisers, foreign governments, and members of Congress - and that all of them reached the same conclusions. The only part that is true is that Mr. Bush was working off the same intelligence Mr. Clinton had. But that is scary, not reassuring. The reports about Saddam Hussein's weapons were old, some more than 10 years old. Nothing was fresher than about five years, except reports that later proved to be fanciful.
Foreign intelligence services did not have full access to American intelligence. But some had dissenting opinions that were ignored or not shown to top American officials. Congress had nothing close to the president's access to intelligence."
Nov. 15, 2005 - New York Times
Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, JD, Correspondents for the Washington Post, wrote in a Nov. 12, 2005 article titled "Asterisks Dot White House's Iraq Argument":
"Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President's Daily Brief, with lawmakers. Also, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community's views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country. In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE...
The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate [NIE] about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary."
Nov. 12, 2005 - Walter H. Pincus, JD