Wolfowitz: U.S. intelligence murky
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary who is the architect of the White House policy on Iraq, said Sunday that "murky" intelligence guides much of the administration's anti-terrorism policy.
Wolfowitz made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows defending the Bush administration's reasons for going to war in Iraq and its postwar plans.
"The nature of terrorism intelligence is intrinsically murky," he told NBC's "Meet the Press."
"We went to war, and I believe we are still fighting terrorists and terrorist supporters in Iraq, in a battle that will make this country safer in the future. ... Winning the peace in Iraq is now the crucial battle in the war on terrorism."
Wolfowitz said he had not read the recently released 900-page House-Senate report on intelligence before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, but he used it to make the administration's case for war.
"It's saying we should have connected these murky dots ahead of time," he told CBS's "Face the Nation."
"Well, you can't have it both ways. If you wait until you have absolute certainty about terrorism, you are really saying, 'We'll wait until after the fact and deal with it.'"
He told NBC, "If in 2001, or in 2000, or in 1999, we had gone to war in Afghanistan to deal with Osama bin Laden, and we had tried to say, 'It's because he's planning to kill 3,000 people in New York,' people would have said, 'Well, you don't have any proof of that,'" he said.
"It surprises me sometimes that people had forgotten so soon what September 11 ... should have taught us about terrorism," he said. "And that's what this is all about."
But Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had a different perspective.
"Boy, it sure didn't sound murky before the war," he said on CBS. "There were clear connections, we were told, between al Qaeda and Iraq. There was no murkiness, no nuance, no uncertainty about it at all. It was very clear, very certain. That's the way it was presented to the American people."
"That's really the issue here, as to whether or not the evidence of the al Qaeda-Iraq connection or weapons of mass destruction or of the uranium, whether it was exaggerated, whether it was stated to be more certain than, in fact, it really was," Levin said.
Other senators expressed concern Sunday about the 28 pages withheld from the House-Senate report that dealt with a foreign government's support of the September 11 hijackers.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee during the joint congressional probe, said in his judgment "95 percent of that information could be declassified."
"I think [the pages] are classified for the wrong reason," he said on NBC's "Meet The Press," adding that the pages were being withheld because the information "might be embarrassing to some international relations."
Current Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, told CBS's "Face The Nation" he was "unhappy with the amount of material that was redacted."
He also confirmed what has been a open secret in Washington since the report was issued -- that Saudi Arabia was linked to the hijackers in the blacked-out portions of the report.
"Part of that was redacted to protect the Saudis," Roberts said, adding that "there was obvious Saudi involvement."
The man who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee during the House-Senate probe, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, told "Fox News Sunday" the information was withheld by the Bush administration "to protect relationships with foreign governments, particularly a foreign government."
It also was withheld, he said, "to disguise and keep from the American people ineptitude and incompetence which was a contributing factor toward September 11."
Graham, who is seeking the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, refused to identify the country involved, saying it would be a criminal offense to publicly discuss classified information.
But he gave Fox a description what how the unnamed foreign government was involved with the September 11 hijackers.
"This foreign government provided logistical assistance to at least two of the hijackers, made acquisitions of their behalf, made payments on their behalf, [and] provided -- not through charities but through a source related back to an official of that government -- significant financial support for these two terrorists."
He also charged the "high officials in this government, who I assume were not just rogue officials acting on their own, " were involved in providing support that helped the hijackers "plan, practice then execute" their attacks.
Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were Saudi citizens. But Saudi officials have taken strong exception to suggestions that Saudi officials, including members of the royal family, might have helped the hijackers.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Porter Goss, R-Florida, co-chairman of the joint probe, said protecting "sensitive foreign liaisons" is a legitimate reason for classifying information.
He also told NBC that withholding the 28 pages was justified to protect ongoing investigations into terrorism.