WASHINGTON -- The key U.S. assertions leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq - that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was working to make nuclear weapons - were wrong and based on false or overstated CIA analyses, a scathing Senate Intelligence Committee report asserted Friday.
Intelligence analysts fell victim to "group think" assumptions that Iraq had weapons when it did not, the bipartisan report concluded. Many factors contributing to those failures are ongoing problems within the U.S. intelligence community - which cannot be fixed with more money alone, it said.
The report did not address a key allegation by Democrats: That Bush and other officials further twisted the evidence to back their calls for war against Iraq. The committee's top Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, said he was disappointed the panel did not look into what he called "exaggerated" claims of the Iraqi threat by top administration officials.
President Bush called it a "useful report" about where the intelligence community "went short."
"We need to know. I want to know. I want to know how to make the agencies better," he said at a political stop Friday in Kutztown, Pa.
At a rare news conference at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., deputy director John McLaughlin, who takes over as acting director after George Tenet leaves Sunday, said: "We get it. Although we think the judgments were not unreasonable when they were made nearly two years ago, we understand with all we have learned since then, that we could have done better."
Sen. Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who heads the committee, told reporters that assessments that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and could make a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade were wrong.
"As the report will show, they were also unreasonable and largely unsupported by the available intelligence," he said.
"This was a global intelligence failure."
Rockefeller said: "Tragically, the intelligence failures set forth in this report will affect our national security for generations to come. Our credibility is diminished. Our standing in the world has never been lower. We have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before."
The report repeatedly blasts departing CIA Director Tenet, accusing him of skewing advice to top policy-makers with the CIA's view and elbowing out dissenting views from other intelligence agencies overseen by the State or Defense departments. It faulted Tenet for not personally reviewing Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, which contained since-discredited references to Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium in Africa.
Bush has been agonizing over whether he will nominate a successor for Tenet before the November election. Asked earlier this week whether he planned to wait until after the election to name Tenet's replacement, the president said: "I haven't made up my mind on the nomination process."
Intelligence analysts worked from the assumption that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and was seeking to make more, as well as trying to revive a nuclear weapons program. Instead, investigations after the Iraq invasion have shown that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had no nuclear weapons program and no biological weapons, and only small amounts of chemical weapons have been found.
Analysts ignored or discounted conflicting information because of their assumptions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the report said.
"This 'group think' dynamic led Intelligence Community analysts, collectors and managers to both interpret ambiguous evidence as conclusively indicative of a WMD program as well as ignore or minimize evidence that Iraq did not have active and expanding weapons of mass destruction programs," the report concluded.
Such assumptions also led analysts to inflate snippets of questionable information into broad declarations that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, the report said.