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Iraq Transition

Amid furor over Iraq report, calls to release another

Story Highlights

NEW: White House calls reports of second document "flat wrong"
• Democrats call for release of second "grim" intelligence report
• White House says work on second Iraq report has just begun
• Declassified report: Iraq war making new generation of terrorist leaders
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As political debate churned over an intelligence report released Tuesday, a top Democrat called for the release of a second, new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that she says "paints a grim picture."

The White House denied a charge by Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, that another intelligence report is being kept in draft form so that its contents won't be public until the midterm elections in November are over.

"I hear it paints a grim picture. And because it does, I am told it is being held until after the November elections. If this estimate is finished, it should not be stamped 'draft' and hidden from the American people until after the elections," Harman said in a statement.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Wednesday that Harman's claims about the new report are "flat wrong."

Snow said Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte had formed a committee about a month ago to review intelligence on Iraq.

"These reviews take about a year to do," Snow said. " ... There is not a waiting Iraq document that reflects a national intelligence estimate that's sitting around gathering dust waiting till after the election."

Frances Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, said the report in question was commissioned in August and is still months away from being complete. The planned release date is now January, she said.

Clash over report foreshadows election

With midterm elections just six weeks away, the Washington political world was roiled by arguments between a White House declaring the war in Iraq is a vital front in the war on terror, and Democratic critics insisting the conflict was an epic blunder that's made the terror threat worse. (Watch charges fly about the report -- 2:41)

Central to the tug-of-war was the classified intelligence report on terrorism, put together by U.S. intelligence agencies in April.

Over the weekend, details from the report were leaked to the media, prompting Democrats opposed to President Bush's Iraq policy to charge that even his own intelligence agencies had concluded the war was a mistake.

But Bush counterattacked Tuesday, ordering National Intelligence Director John Negroponte to declassify and release key findings of the estimate to stop what he termed speculation in the wake of what he charged were politically motivated leaks.

"Everybody can draw their own conclusions about what the report says," Bush said.

Report seems like a political Rorschach test

However, far from settling the issue, the key findings released Tuesday are likely to provide each side with ammunition to continue their argument straight through to Election Day. (Full story)

Democratic critics are pointing to the intelligence estimate's conclusion that the Iraqi insurgency has become the "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists, "breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement."

The Iraq war is also shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives who could be a "potential source of leadership" for new Islamic terrorist groups, which are becoming harder to combat because they are increasingly decentralized and dispersed, the report concluded.

In addition, the intelligence analysts concluded the insurgency against U.S.-led forces in Iraq was an "underlying factor" fueling the spread of Islamic radicalism -- and that the underlying factors contributing to its spread will "outweigh its vulnerabilities" for at least the next five years.

But Bush, speaking earlier Tuesday before the key findings in the intelligence estimate were released, insisted its conclusions were not a surprise, and that he agreed with them.

"I'm not surprised the enemy is exploiting the situation in Iraq and using it as a propaganda tool to recruit more people to their murderous ways," he said.

Bush said the suggestion "that if we weren't in Iraq we would have seen a rosier scenario, with fewer extremists joining the radical movement, requires us to ignore 20 years of experience."

"If we weren't in Iraq, they'd find some other excuse, because they have ambitions," he said. (Watch Bush call critics of war 'naive' -- 3:10)

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the estimate's key finds findings show the war "has made us less safe."

"The war in Iraq has inflamed Islamic extremism and hatred toward the United States," Rockefeller said in a statement. "It has given the terrorists a centralized place to attack and kill Americans, and it has created a training ground for the next generation of terrorists."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said the report's findings "confirm what the American people have long believed -- the Bush administration's failed policies in Iraq are fueling global terrorism and making America less safe."

"It is time to change course. We need a new direction in Iraq so that America can finally win the war on terror," Reid said in a statement. (Watch Iraq at the center of a highly charged day in Washington -- 2:23 Video)

Supporters of Bush's policy are pointing to the report's conclusion that if the Iraqi insurgency is perceived to have failed, "fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight."'

"This really underscores the president's point about the importance of our winning in Iraq," said Townsend in a briefing with reporters about the intelligence estimate.

Townsend also said the report's conclusion that jihadists in Iraq are a potential source of leadership for new groups "is not any different from any other conflict."

"People with fighting experience will take that experience and use it in the future," she said. "The fact is, they were fighting us long before we were in Iraq ... and they were using their experience in prior conflicts."

Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said that whoever leaked portions of the report to the media "forgot to mention a key finding of the intelligence community -- if we defeat the terrorists in Iraq, there will be fewer terrorists inspired to carry on the fight."

"In other words, defeating terrorists in Iraq not only secures that new democracy, but prevents future attacks here at home," McConnell said in a statement.

The full findings are posted at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Web site. (http://www.dni.gov/external link).

CNN's Andrea Koppel and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.


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At a Tuesday press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, President Bush said he would declassify the NIE findings.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

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