Bush Declines to Back Call for Intel Probe - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

01/30/04 - Washington

Bush Declines to Back Call for Intel Probe

President Bush said Friday "I want to know the facts" about any intelligence failures concerning Saddam Hussein's alleged cache of forbidden weapons but he declined to endorse calls for an independent investigation.

The issue of an independent commission has blossomed into an election-year problem for the president, with Democrats and Republicans alike supporting the idea. Former chief weapons inspector David Kay has concluded that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction, which Bush had cited as a rationale for going to war against Iraq.

Bush said he wants to be able to compare the administration's prewar intelligence with what will be learned by inspectors who are now searching for weapons in Iraq. There is no deadline for those inspectors, the Iraq Survey Group, to complete their work.

"One thing is for certain, one thing we do know ... that Saddam Hussein was a danger, he was growing danger," the president told reporters during a brief question and answer session after a meeting with economists.

Parting company with many of his fellow Republicans, Sen. John McCain said Thursday he wants an independent commission to take a sweeping look at recent intelligence failures.

Some of the Democratic candidates for president said they support an independent commission.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean criticized Vice President Dick Cheney, saying that he berated CIA operatives because he did not like their intelligence reports. "It seems to me that the vice president of the United States therefore influenced the very reports that the president then used to decide to go to war and to ask Congress for permission to go to war," Dean said during a campaign debate Thursday night.

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said his support for the Iraq war was based on years of intelligence briefings and evidence of Saddam Hussein's atrocities against his own people. He supports an independent commission "that will have credibility and that the American people will trust, about why there is this discrepancy about what we were told and what's actually been found there."

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry said that whether Cheney berated CIA officials to shape the intelligence that he wanted is "a very legitimate question. ... There's an enormous question about the exaggeration by this administration."

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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