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Inside Politics

Bush defends stance on WMDs

Report slams CIA for Iraq intelligence failures

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President Bush defends his decision to invade Iraq.

Senate report faults the CIA for poor prewar intelligence.

The Senate report on the CIA and Iraq is scathing.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush has defended his decision to go to war following the release of a report criticizing the intelligence used to justify invading Iraq.

A U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report released on Friday blasted the CIA's prewar estimates of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as overstated and unsupported. (Full story)

Bush said the United States was "right to go into Iraq. America is safer today because we did," he told a cheering crowd of supporters in Pennsylvania.

"We removed a declared enemy of America, who had the capability of producing weapons of mass destruction, and could have passed that capability to terrorists bent on acquiring them."

The report by the Senate panel faulted intelligence analysts for having a "collective presumption" that Iraq already had weapons of mass destruction.

That presumption, the report said, clouded analysts' interpretation of data.

"The committee found no evidence that the intelligence community's mischaracterization or exaggeration of the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities was the result of political pressure," Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts said.

The 18-member panel approved the 500-plus-page report unanimously.

He said Bush and Congress sent the country to war based on "flawed" information "provided by the intelligence community."

Vice chairman Sen. John Rockefeller said the Senate "would not have authorized that war with 75 votes if we knew what we know now."

But Bush told the Republican rally that he was not alone in perceiving Iraq as a threat.

"My administration looked at the intelligence, and we saw a threat. Members of Congress looked at the intelligence, and they saw a threat.

The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence, and it saw a threat. The previous administration and Congress looked at the intelligence -- and made regime change in Iraq the policy of our country," the president said.

When Saddam Hussein refused to heed U.N. resolutions, the United States had no choice but to make good on its promise of action, Bush said.

Bush: I will defend America

"We had a choice to make: Either take the word of a madman, or take action to defend America. Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time."

"Because we acted, its dictator is now in a prison cell, and will receive the justice he denied so many for so long," Bush added.

Although he approved the report, Rockefeller said it "fails to fully explain" the pressures on the intelligence community "when the most senior officials in the Bush administration had already forcefully and repeatedly stated their conclusions publicly."

"It was clear to all of us in this room who were watching that -- and to any others -- that they had made up their mind that they were going to go to war," he said.

Critics of the war had been concerned about visits to the CIA by Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials, but the report says it found no evidence that "policymakers" asked inappropriate questions of the analysts or tried to pressure them into changing their views.

Conservatives on the panel successfully blocked Democratic efforts to finish the second part of the report -- how the administration used the information from the intelligence community -- until after the November elections.

At times, the Senate report appears to contradict other reports, stating flatly that the intelligence analysts were "accurate and not affected by a lack of relevant source or operational detail" in making a connection between Iraq and terrorism.

It did, however, say that contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq in the 1990s "did not add up to an established formal relationship."

The report also criticizes both the CIA and the Defense Human Intelligence Service's handling of an informer code-named "Curveball," noting that the DHIS "demonstrated serious lapses in handling such an important source."

Report says analysts exaggerated

Over and over, the report noted that the analysts exaggerated what they knew and left out, glossed over or simply dismissed dissenting views.

Regarding Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5, 2003, speech to the United Nations -- in which he presented the U.S. case for war -- the report said that "much of the information" included in the speech from the CIA "was overstated, misleading or incorrect."

Adding to the problems, the report said, was further analysis based on the initial flawed analysis, creating what it called "a layering effect" and what Roberts called "the intelligence assumption train."

The report does not, however, speculate about why the intelligence community might have chosen to ignore reports that, for example, Iraq's military capability had "steadily degraded after 1990" or that Iraq had not reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

CNN's David Ensor contributed to this report.

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