Published February 03, 2004
WASHINGTON – President Bush said Monday he wants "all the facts" about the intelligence that led to the war with Iraq as he said he would order an independent investigation into what caused U.S. intelligence failures.
Later Monday, Bush had lunch with former chief weapons inspector David Kay (search), who told members of Congress last week that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction.
Kay told Congress that "it turns out we were all wrong, probably" about the Iraqi threat.
Bush defended his decision to go to war on intelligence that Kay now says was erroneous.
"I want all the facts," Bush said. "We do know that Saddam Hussein had the intent and capabilities to cause great harm. We know he was a danger. And he was not only a danger to people in the free world, he was a danger to his own people. He slaughtered thousands of people, imprisoned people."
"What we don't know yet is (reconciling) what we thought and what the Iraqi Survey Group has found, and we want to look at that," the president said. "But we also want to look at our war against proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, kind of in a broader context. And so, I'm putting together an independent, bipartisan commission to analyze where we stand, what we can do better as we fight this war against terror."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that Bush will announce the members of the commission and its timeline for completion later this week.
With the presidential election exactly nine months away, McClellan said: "It is important that the commission's work is done in a way that it doesn't become embroiled in partisan politics."
He said Bush summoned Kay to the White House for lunch to "hear what he has learned and get his views."
Kay, passing by reporters as he left the White House, said only, "Have a nice day."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (search), D-S.D., said he was pleased the Bush administration now favored an investigation, but stressed that the probe needs to be independent.
"We can't have the president dictating how that will work and who will be involved," Daschle told reporters. "It's important that we have everything on the table."
On Sunday, Kay said an investigation into intelligence would take time and patience.
"That's not something you want to do from horseback," Kay told "Fox News Sunday." "It's going to be a time-consuming process. Whether it's going to take six months or nine months, I have no idea at this point."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (search), said the commission must start investigating soon. Delaying any report until after the election would be a "big mistake," he told Fox News.
The probe will have a much broader charge than looking at just Iraq, a U.S. official told Fox News.
A senior White House official told The Associated Press that the body would be patterned after the Warren Commission, which conducted a 10-month investigation that concluded in 1964 that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President Kennedy.
In appointing the members, Bush will draw heavily from experts familiar with problems in intelligence, the White House official said, describing them as "distinguished citizens who have served their country in the past."
Sen. Jon Corzine (search), D-N.J., whose measure to set up a similar bipartisan commission to investigate prewar intelligence was defeated in the Senate last July, said any investigative panel must be able to probe the collection and analysis of intelligence as well as the use of the information, "including whether there was any misrepresentation or exaggeration of the intelligence."
"We must not lose sight of the big picture," Corzine said in a statement Sunday. "Americans are fighting and dying in Iraq because of what the administration told us about the intelligence."
Lawmakers from both parties say the intelligence flap has diluted America's credibility.
"The issue is not just shortcomings of U.S. intelligence," Sen. Chuck Hagel (search), R-Neb., a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on a television news program Sunday, but "the credibility of who we are around the world and the trust of our government and our leaders."
Sen. Joseph Biden (search), D-Del., agreed. America's credibility's at stake. This isn't about politics anymore," he said.
David Albright (search), a former weapons inspector, told the Associated Press he feared the administration might try to use the commission as a way to delay judgments about the intelligence community and the administration's use of the information it receives.
"The bottom line for them [the Bush administration] is to delay the day of reckoning about their use of the weapons of mass destruction information," Albright said.
"David Kay can blame the CIA and say, 'Oh, I made all these comments based on what I heard from the intelligence community.' President Bush can't do that. He's the boss."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.