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Senator Says Congress Should Review Secret CIA Data on Iraq

June 04, 2003|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) said the CIA should be allowed to present secret evidence to lawmakers on Saddam Hussein's weapons programs before any public investigation into the intelligence data used to justify the war in Iraq.

Warner, who two days ago proposed hearings on the matter, said the House and Senate panels that oversee the Central Intelligence Agency should first review documents supporting the Bush administration's prewar allegations against Hussein in closed sessions.

"You've got to make sure you've got the facts and the information in hand, and that is being delivered to the intelligence committees now," said Warner, chairman of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, after a private meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney.

In the months preceding the war, President Bush said Hussein's possession of chemical and biological weapons agents was a threat.

Since ground combat ended, U.S. and British military authorities have discovered no such weapons. Democrats have accused Bush of manipulating intelligence data to justify the war.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday June 06, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 3 inches; 111 words Type of Material: Correction
Warner quote -- In a wire service article in Section A on Wednesday, Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) was incorrectly quoted as saying he had been asked by Vice President Dick Cheney to "back off" plans to hold hearings on prewar intelligence on Iraq. Bloomberg News, the source of the quote, said Warner answered a reporter's question about what Cheney had said during a Tuesday meeting with this comment: "Well look, back off. Let's get the information in place." John Ullyot, Warner's spokesman, told Bloomberg on Thursday that the senator was urging reporters not to ask questions until he had gathered more information. Warner wasn't reporting what Cheney said, Ullyot said.

In an interview with The Times published Monday, Warner stressed that he remained "of the opinion there has been no deception by the administration." However, he added, "the situation is becoming one where the credibility of the administration and Congress is being challenged."

Warner said the message from Cheney, who met with Senate Republicans at lunch, was "back off" and "let's get the information in place." Cheney's spokeswoman wouldn't confirm whether Cheney had asked senators to delay public hearings.

The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman said Tuesday that his panel would decide whether to hold hearings after it had reviewed the secret documents. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said he expected the White House to turn over the papers in the next few days.

Roberts hedged on whether he would hold hearings. "We have not ruled out hearings by any means," he said.

Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), the senior Democrat on the intelligence panel, said, "One way or another there is going to be an investigation" into whether U.S. intelligence was "manipulated."

And Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, "This is a question of politicization of intelligence."

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