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Bush administration: Intelligence data on Iraq was not manipulated

Democrats challenge White House on claims

The Bush administration says former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein hid weapons of mass destruction in his country.
The Bush administration says former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein hid weapons of mass destruction in his country.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Facing skeptics at home and abroad, the Bush administration, joined by congressional Republicans, on Wednesday rejected suggestions that it manipulated intelligence data on Iraq -- particularly as it related to weapons of mass destruction -- in order to bolster its argument for war.

"I personally never asked anybody in the intelligence community to change a single thing that they presented, and I am not aware of any other official in this administration who did that," John Bolton, undersecretary for arms control at the State Department, told lawmakers at a hearing of the House International Relations Committee.

Some Democrats and critics in Europe are questioning Bush administration assertions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"Like millions of Americans, I'm wondering where the hell the weapons of mass destruction are," said Rep. Joseph Hoeffel, D-Pennsylvania, speaking at that same House hearing.

In making the case for launching a military strike against Iraq, Bush, joined by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, repeatedly said deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was harboring and developing weapons of mass destruction.

No such weapons have been found, more than a month after Bush declared major combat over in Iraq, following a U.S.-led invasion of that country. Administration officials stress the WMD search is relatively young and point to recently discovered trailers in Iraq as evidence of Saddam's effort to produce biological weapons.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix is expected to brief the U.N. Security Council on his latest report Thursday. In that report, the inspectors say they've found no WMD evidence and say they've made "little progress" in clearing up questions concerning their possible development or use.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, told reporters it shouldn't be surprising that weapons have not yet been found.

"We know that some of them, especially the biological weapons, were being destroyed," Hastert said, adding that it would "take a little while to find weapons of mass destruction... and we're going to continue to do it."

Some Democrats, however, are growing increasingly vocal in criticizing the White House, demanding a fuller explanation from the administration about U.S. intelligence on the matter. Some have said the intelligence was either flawed or manipulated to advance a specific agenda.

"What evidence did this administration have to claim that Iraq had WMD," asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat, outspoken critic of the war -- and a presidential contender. "What evidence did this administration have for its repeated claims that Iraq was a threat to this nation ... What evidence did this administration have to justify war?"

At a news conference Wednesday, Kucinich announced that he would introduce a resolution demanding the White House detail its claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

At the Pentagon, one top official disputed reports that some analysts there had sought out evidence to justify a war with Iraq.

"This suggestion that we said to them, 'This is what we're looking for, go find it,' is precisely the inaccuracy that we are here to rebut," said Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate Intelligence Committee is to review classified background documents related to the administration's pre-war statements about WMD in Iraq. Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of that committee, has not, however, scheduled a hearing about the matter, even though some lawmakers, mostly Democrats, are calling for such a move. Roberts said he wants to give the weapons hunt in Iraq more time.

-- Written by CNN.Com Producer Sean Loughlin with reports from National Security Correspondent David Ensor, U.N Producer Liz Neisloss and Congressional Producer Steve Turnham.

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