WASHINGTON – Leaders of a Senate committee complained to three top Bush administration officials Thursday that their agencies were slow in providing information needed for the panel's inquiry into prewar intelligence on Iraq.
The letters to Secretary of State Colin Powell (search), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (search) and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice (search) set a deadline of Friday to provide documents and schedule interviews. It was signed by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and its top Democrat, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.
A similar letter was sent Wednesday to CIA Director George Tenet.
"We must take whatever steps are necessary to assure our nation that U.S. intelligence is accurate and unbiased," Thursday's letters said. "The credibility of the government with its people and the nation with the world is at stake."
A White House spokesman said the administration was "surprised by the substance and tone of the letter." The White House has been assisting the committee in its review of intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, he said.
"The White House has made NSC [National Security Council] staffers available to meet with committee investigators and has provided committee investigators access to relevant documents even though the committee does not have jurisdiction over the White House," the spokesman said.
"Neither Dr. Rice nor the White House has objected to allowing the committee access to CIA documents sent to the White House. In fact, White House lawyers made copies of these documents available to committee investigators last summer."
A Defense Department spokesman said the Pentagon is in the process of answering the letter.
There was no immediate comment from the State Department.
Roberts told reporters Thursday "there's no real serious repercussions" if the deadline cannot be met, but he hopes they would respond by at least Monday or Tuesday.
The committee is examining the quality of U.S. intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs and its connections to terrorism. Democrats have been pressing for a broader inquiry to examine whether the Bush administration manipulated the intelligence to make the case for war.