WASHINGTON – President Bush said Friday that he won't back calls for an independent investigation of intelligence failures surrounding Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction (search) stockpiles despite increasing demands for one by some U.S. lawmakers.
Instead, Bush said he wants to know the facts about any possible failures, but he has no doubt that even without the discovery of weapons, freeing Iraq from Saddam was a smart move.
"One thing is for certain, one thing we do know ... that Saddam Hussein was a danger, he was a growing danger," the president told reporters during a brief question and answer session after a meeting with economists.
The president said he wants to compare pre-war intelligence with information picked up by the inspectors now searching Iraq for weapons.
The Iraq Survey Group (search), formerly led by David Kay, has been in the country for almost 10 months trying to find out if Saddam had weapons, and if so, what became of them. When Kay stepped down from heading the group earlier this month, he said that he did not think that Saddam had any weapons stockpiles though the ISG had gathered thousands of pages of evidence indicating an interest in weapons programs.
Kay has said he did not believe that the president tried to dupe the U.S. public with claims of a weapons program, but that the intelligence given to the president to draw his conclusion was incorrect.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, Kay suggested he supported an outside or independent investigation about the problems with intelligence on Iraq. That statement in the open hearing was interpreted as a nod toward a commission to be appointed to look at intelligence, a proposal supported by several Democrats and Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
But a knowledgeable official told Fox News that Kay made clear to senators during a private session that an "outside" investigating body "could be Congress."
Already, the Senate Intelligence Committee has been working on such a report for several months. It is expected to be released to senators on Thursday.
Some predict that the report will take a lot of steam out of the demands for another investigation. One official told Fox News that "there won't be a lot of questions unanswered when the [report] is done."
Still, some Democratic presidential candidates are using Kay's opening remarks as en election-year strategy against Bush.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) 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.
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search) 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."
North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search) 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."
Fox News' Jim Angle and the Associated Press contributed to this report.