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Intelligence panel sets more document deadlines

From David Ensor and Pam Benson
CNN Washington Bureau

CIA Director George Tenet on Capitol Hill in July.
CIA Director George Tenet on Capitol Hill in July.

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George Tenet

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Intelligence Committee has sent bluntly worded letters to the White House, State Department and Pentagon to demand documents relevant to its investigation into intelligence on alleged Iraqi weapons before the war.

The letters sent Thursday follow a similar one sent Wednesday to the CIA. Each letter gives the same deadline of noon Friday for the documents to be turned over.

The letters to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also insist that witnesses should call the committee to schedule appearances by that same deadline.

A Senate source said the letter to CIA Director George Tenet was "designed to be a wakeup call," to "tell the CIA how urgent this is."

CIA officials said Thursday they will respond soon to the demand but one official said not to count on the agency meeting the deadline.

The CIA is expressing irritation that the letter was reported in the media before it was even received.

"We're eager to cooperate with the committee," one official said. "We'll send the letter the old-fashioned way -- to the committee, not the news media."

Officials said Tenet is willing -- indeed eager -- to appear before the committee and explain why, before the war, U.S. intelligence said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Stuart Cohen, the CIA official who oversaw the writing of the key intelligence document before the war, told CNN last week that he stands by its finding and he believes the group looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, under the leadership of CIA official David Kay, may yet find weapons.

The committee's chairman and its ranking Democrat, Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, and Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia respectively, wrote the letters.

To Tenet, the senators wrote, "You must expedite our access to the current list of outstanding documents and interview requests."

"This information was to have been provided to the committee five months ago," they wrote.

The senators' letter also complained about the failure of the agency to provide the committee "with an explanation of the various disconnects and inconsistencies in the assessments concerning the Niger uranium issue."

In the letter to Rice the senators wrote, "We have made numerous requests for documents which we have not yet been provided and we have sought to interview a member of your staff without success. Some of these requests have gone unanswered since July. You must expedite our access to the outstanding documents and immediately make available the individual identified. You must also lift your objection to the Central Intelligence Agency providing the committee with certain documents and allowing us to interview individuals involved in briefing senior administration officials."

To Rumsfeld and Powell, the two senators wrote, "The credibility of the government with its people and the nation with the world is at stake. Incomplete answers and lingering doubts will haunt us for many years."

The intelligence committee is trying to determine how solid the information about Iraq's weapons program was before the war and whether any mistakes were made in interpreting the information.

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