A leading figure in the Bush administration's march to war in
Iraq helped justify the 2003 invasion by undercutting the CIA
with questionable intelligence about Saddam Hussein's links to
al Qaeda, a Pentagon watchdog agency said in a report on Friday.
Former U.S. defense policy chief Douglas Feith presented the
White House with claims of a "mature symbiotic relationship"
between Iraq and al Qaeda as if they were facts, while ignoring
contradictory views from the intelligence community, the report
by the Pentagon inspector general said.
"They did not show the other, dissenting side," Defense
Department acting inspector general Thomas Gimble told the Senate
Armed Services Committee at a hearing.
A claim by Feith's office that September 11 hijacking ringleader
Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi official months before the 2001
attacks could not be verified by intelligence, he said.
Gimble, who produced the classified report after a one-year review,
concluded that Feith was authorized by former deputy Defense Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz to pursue alternative intelligence conclusions
and that the action was lawful.
But Feith's actions were sometimes "inappropriate"
because they "did not clearly show the variance with the
consensus of the intelligence community," said an unclassified
two-page executive summary of the report released by the inspector
As a result, Feith's office "did not provide 'the most accurate
analysis of intelligence' to senior decision-makers," it
"The inspector general's report is a devastating condemnation,"
said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the Senate panel's Democratic
Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, Democratic chairman of the House
of Representatives Armed Services Committee, said the report showed
that Feith's office exercised "extremely poor judgment for
which our nation, and our service members in particular, are paying
a terrible price."
Feith's audience at a White House presentation in September 2002
included then-deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley
and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff
to Vice President Dick Cheney who is now on federal trial over
another matter related to prewar Iraq intelligence.
Top administration officials including Cheney used claims of
an Iraq-Qaeda relationship to suggest Saddam could have had a
role in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Independent bodies, including the September 11 commission, found
no collaborative links between Iraq and the militant network blamed
for the attacks that killed 3,000 people and prompted the U.S.
war on terrorism.
The report, requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee in
September 2005, recommended no action be taken because leadership
changes in the Pentagon and intelligence community made a recurrence
Feith, who left government in 2005, welcomed the finding that
his activities were legal and authorized but said it was "absurd"
to conclude that his work was inappropriate.
"It, of course, varied from (the) consensus. It was a criticism
of that consensus. That is why it was written," he said in
Republicans loyal to President George W. Bush rebutted Levin
and called Feith's work an intelligence critique that required
no formal vetting process.
"I don't think in any way that his report can be interpreted
as a devastating condemnation," said Sen. James Inhofe, an
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who replaced Donald Rumsfeld
in December, did not comment on the substance of the report but
said intelligence should to be handled through established channels.
"If intelligence is inadequate, then changes need to be
made in those institutions to improve intelligence," Gates
told reporters in Spain.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Gray and Joanne Allen, and by
Kristin Roberts in Seville)