Senators: CIA stalling on review of Iraq report
'Not a flattering picture,' Intelligence Committee chief says
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Intelligence Committee members are accusing the CIA of hindering the release of a report that gives an unflattering assessment of pre-war intelligence on Iraq.
Committee chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, said Sunday that his committee plans to approve the report with "almost unanimous" support this week. But the CIA is still reviewing the document to prevent the release of classified information and intelligence methods.
Roberts said the agency was supposed to have completed its review two weeks ago, and committee staffers are saying additional delays are likely.
"It's taking too long," Roberts said.
The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, said the CIA appears to be stonewalling.
"I'm not sure that they would necessarily disagree with a lot of the facts that we have in there," the West Virginia Democrat said. "But for some reason, they're delaying it. They don't want it out."
A CIA official said Sunday that clearing the report for publication is "a very exacting process."
"You have to take care to ensure intelligence sources are not inadvertently released that can prove damaging to collection efforts," the official said. "But we continue to work with [the] committee on this."
Roberts would not discuss report details, but said, "It's not a flattering picture."
"The report by itself is not a good-news report," he said. "But on the other side of it, it will allow us to set the predicate to move immediately to the reform issues."
The Intelligence Committee spent about nine months investigating how U.S. and other intelligence agencies concluded that Iraq was maintaining stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and long-range missiles, and was trying to develop nuclear weapons, all in violation of U.N. resolutions.
That conclusion was the principal reason for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But more than a year after Saddam's fall, all that has been found of those suspected stockpiles are two chemical artillery shells.
"It was an assumption train, and the assumptions were wrong," Roberts said.
Although U.S. inspectors found evidence that Iraq had concealed weapons research from the United Nations, the former chief of the U.S. inspection team told Congress in January that he believed it unlikely that any large stockpiles of banned weapons would turn up.
Meanwhile, with the Senate report pending and the commission investigating the attacks of September 11, 2001 due to report next month, CIA Director George Tenet has announced he will step down in mid-July.
Rockefeller said he believed Tenet's explanation that his resignation was for personal reasons, but added, "I don't think he was looking forward to this report."