JERUSALEM – Israeli intelligence had few facts about Saddam Hussein's (search) chemical and biological weapons ahead of last year's U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, leading officials to take unnecessary steps to protect the public, participants in a parliamentary inquiry of the intelligence services said Sunday.
A report on the investigation was to be released later Sunday.
The report does not suggest Israel (search) deliberately misled U.S. intelligence, but says Israel's coordination with foreign intelligence agencies was faulty, said members of the panel of inquiry, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The investigators are expected to deliver a sharp rebuke to the country's vaunted intelligence services and offer recommendations for avoiding similar mistakes in the future, the legislators said.
A member of the parliamentary subcommittee that prepared the report said Sunday that Israeli intelligence ahead of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq was based on "assessments rather than hard information." He spoke on condition of anonymity.
The report said that such hearsay, sent to the United States for verification, was leaked to the Israeli media in the guise of fact. Apparently, the information was recycled and accepted as fact by the Israeli government, it said.
Since ousting Saddam, the U.S.-led coalition's technical experts have failed to find any weapons of mass destruction.
The report recommends the appointment of a special intelligence adviser to the Israeli prime minister and legislation to clearly define the roles of the various Israeli civil and military intelligence services. The recommendations are nonbinding.
The Israeli subcommittee spent eight months considering the intelligence agencies' performance on Iraq. The 80-page report to be released on Sunday is the unclassified portion of its study. A secret section is still in preparation.
Last year, the Israeli military ordered citizens to unseal the gas masks they keep with them on a permanent basis. The step cost the country millions of dollars and no missiles were fired on Israel during the war.
Members of the subcommittee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the move caused heavy economic damage and unnecessary panic.
In the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam's forces fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel. All had conventional warheads, causing considerable damage but few casualties.
The parliamentary report was based on the closed-door testimony of some 70 witnesses, including the prime minister, defense minister, military chief, and the heads of the Mossad foreign intelligence service, the Shin Bet (search) domestic intelligence service, and the military intelligence service.