Pentagon's prewar intelligence role questioned
Roberts criticizes reliance on single, 'troubled' source
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Sunday that they want to know whether the Pentagon knowingly withheld information from the CIA and ran a secret intelligence-gathering operation in building a case for invading Iraq.
Their comments came two days after the committee released an independent, bipartisan report condemning flawed prewar intelligence that said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. (Full story)
Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," the committee's chairman and vice chairman, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, respectively, expressed concern over actions by the Defense Intelligence Agency and Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy.
Roberts cited false information on Iraq that the Bush administration had taken from a source code-named Curveball.
"Curveball really provided 98 percent of the assessment as to whether or not the Iraqis had a biological weapon," Roberts said.
"Yet the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, knew of his background. He has a very troubled background."
Based on this source's claims, the administration argued that Iraq had biological weapons capability, Roberts said.
"That's the kind of flaw in intelligence and I think -- I won't say willful -- but the DIA should have shared that information with the CIA. And the CIA should have gone from there."
In fact, Roberts said, much information about Curveball was redacted, or blacked out, from the version of the report that was made public.
"I can't really tell you some of the more specific details that would make your eyebrows even raise higher," Roberts said.
Rockefeller questioned whether Feith overstepped legal bounds with a unit he oversaw, the Office of Special Plans, created to analyze intelligence.
"There's always the question whether or not he was running a secret intelligence operation that bypassed the entire intelligence community. And the law says you've got to inform the intelligence community of anything that you're doing," Rockefeller said.
The allegation is contained in a supplement to the 511-page report.
A Pentagon spokeswoman contacted by CNN had no response to the comments.
The Pentagon has argued that the Office of Special Plans did not gather intelligence but rather assessed existing intelligence.
The Bush administration and Pentagon officials have denied any wrongdoing and stand by the decision to go to war.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has also said the department's sources helped provide valuable intelligence.
Rockefeller acknowledged receiving a letter from the Defense Department accusing him of unfairly charging Feith with unlawful conduct.
"Let's find out if there is" wrongdoing, Rockefeller said. "I don't know."
Speaking to reporters after the NBC program, Roberts said, "We are taking a look at the use of intelligence, and we're taking a look at the role the Defense Department played, and we're looking at prewar Iraq ... in a careful and deliberate way, because we want to get it right."
On ABC's "This Week," Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said questions about the role of the Defense Department are significant in determining how to strengthen the nation's intelligence network.
"The Department of Defense controls the majority of the money and the agencies," she said.
If the CIA director "can't move the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, can't set strategy, can't bring the subtleties of a judgment to the decision makers, then you've got to change the structure," said Feinstein, an Intelligence Committee member.
CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report