Powell slams media on Iraq WMD reports
'No doubt whatsoever' they were present before invasion
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday it was "nonsense" to label U.S. intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as bogus.
Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice blanketed the Sunday morning talk shows to say they were confident the intelligence was accurate and sound.
Powell, who addressed the U.N. Security Council on Iraq's weapons capabilities during the buildup to the war, discussed his preparation of the U.S. argument on "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer.
"In the presentation I gave before the United Nations Security Council, I spent four whole days and nights at the CIA going over all the intelligence in order to make sure that what I presented was going to be solid, credible, representing the views of the United States of America, and I stand behind that presentation," he said. (More on Powell's February presentation)
Powell said there was "no doubt whatsoever" that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction prior to the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, though little evidence has turned up since then.
Powell and Rice said reports about a summary of a Defense Intelligence Agency report from September 2002 were taken out of context and provided a misleading impression of the report.
The report, widely discussed in various media outlets, said the DIA had found "no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons."
Powell noted that the report did not stop there.
"The very next sentence says that it had information that weapons had been dispersed to units," Powell told "Fox News Sunday." "Chemical weapons had been dispersed to units."
Rice told CBS' "Face the Nation" that the sentence had been taken out of context.
"There is a bit of revisionist history going on here," she said. "The truth of the matter is that repeated directors of central intelligence, repeated reports by intelligence agencies around the world, repeated reports by U.N. inspectors asking hard questions of Saddam Hussein, and tremendous efforts by this regime to conceal and hide what it was doing clearly give a picture of a regime that had weapons of mass destruction and was determined to conceal them."
Rice told NBC's "Meet the Press" that another government report was issued a month after the DIA report. The second report, called the National Intelligence Estimate, "said, in its key judgments, Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction."
Rice also said that the administration would welcome and would cooperate with any Congressional investigation into the intelligence matter.
Several senators -- Republican and Democrat -- have called for an investigation.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, addressed the issue on "Meet the Press."
"If our intelligence is either manipulated or if it's shaded or if in some way it is exaggerated, it is very, very dangerous for us, particularly as we go down the road and look at other threats," Levin said.
But Sen. Pat Roberts, the Republican from Kansas who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN he was certain the continuing search for weapons of mass destruction would answer all questions without an intense investigation.
Roberts said CIA Director George Tenet has provided Congress with reams of documents, and that they should be the senators' first priority.
"We're going to thoroughly review that documentation," he said. "A total investigation at this particularly time is premature."
Powell's 'killer argument'
A key Democrat, however -- House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri -- told CBS there would be an investigation, although he downplayed the significance.
"We'll have an investigation in the Congress," said Gephardt, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. "We should. You should, after any war, review what happened, what the intelligence was and whether things were done right."
"But," he said, "there is long, consistent, clear evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And I'm still convinced that we are going to find them."
Powell said that evidence had already been found.
Speaking to CNN, the secretary noted that he had shown February 5 in his speech to the U.N. Security Council a drawing of vans purported to be biological weapons labs "and voila, the vans showed up a few months later."
Powell then offered what he called a "killer argument" supporting his contention that the vans "are exactly what I said they were."
"I can assure you that if those biological vans were not biological vans, when I said they were, on February 5, on February 6 Iraq would have hauled those vans out, put them in front of the press conference, gave them to the UNMOVIC inspectors to try to drive a stake in the heart of my presentation," he said. "They did not."
Later Sunday, Powell told reporters it was "nonsense" to call the intelligence reports "bogus" and that "the American people are quite assured" about their veracity.
"It's the media that invents words such as 'bogus,'" he said, adding that a 1,300-person team was in Iraq hunting for evidence of such weapons.
Rice and Powell also both denied that Vice President Dick Cheney, during several visits to the CIA, had pressured the spy agency to slant its intelligence analyses to back the administration's claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote a letter to British intelligence services reassuring them the government would take "far greater care" using their material, following a controversy over a dossier on Iraq's weapons.
The dossier -- titled "Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation" -- sparked outrage after it was discovered that parts of it were copied from a 12-year-old thesis by an American student. (Full story)