WASHINGTON – The credibility of President Bush and the nation are at stake with the information that led the United States into the Iraq war, two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee (search) say.
Investigations under way by the committee's staff, the CIA and the FBI marked a good beginning, Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said Sunday in a television interview.
"Ultimately, the public needs to be reassured that, in fact, the intelligence the president was given ....(and) was used, and how he framed the debate and the decision to go into Iraq, was intelligence that they can have confidence in," Hagel said.
"And that's, by the way, important for the world to have that same confidence in our word."
A crucial question will be to determine how Bush's State of the Union (search) address on Jan. 28 came to include a reference to what U.S. intelligence had determined was an incorrect British report that Iraq was shopping for uranium in Africa.
"There are plenty of investigations, and the question is, what's the point of them?" said Rockefeller, the intelligence committee's vice chairman. "The point of them is to find out if we were being misled, if somebody inserted that in" despite earlier objections by CIA Director George Tenet (search).
On Fox News Sunday, Rockefeller said Bush could make the controversy go away by coming clean whether the justification for war was exaggerated. "It's just a question of was it right, or was it wrong?" he said.
Rockefeller said the argument should not be personalized or politicized. Because of Bush's policy of maintaining the right of pre-emptive attacks against potentially dangerous governments, he said, "intelligence is the basis now of war-fighting."
Therefore, Rockefeller said, "it's very important to intelligence to say that facts really do matter, they count, they have to be accurate."
Rockefeller told CNN he requested FBI involvement in the case after the International Atomic Energy Agency (search) debunked the British report. He and Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., requested CIA and State Department investigations. The House Intelligence Committee is conducting its own probe.
Hagel said ensuring that the American public and the world have confidence in the word of the United States "is the essence of the exercise here."
Defending the administration, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said the decision to include the 16-word Iraqi uranium-shopping sentence "was made by the speechwriters and by the folks in the White House" using various intelligence sources that were thought reliable.
White House officials have acknowledged the report should not have appeared in the speech and have issued varying versions of why it was. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice (search), has said no top White House officials knew of a report by a CIA emissary that said the report appeared to be bogus.
But Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, a Democratic presidential candidate, said intelligence was available that should have made Bush realize the information in the uranium report was suspect. One source was Vice President Dick Cheney, he told CBS.
"The vice president is the one who went to the CIA on several occasions. He asked specifically for additional information on the Niger-Iraq connection. The United States sent an experienced ambassador, who came back after a full review with a report that these were fabricated documents," Graham said.
"You cannot tell me that the vice president didn't receive the same report that the CIA received, and that the vice president didn't communicate that report to the president or national security advisers to the president."