WASHINGTON – President Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction (search) is expected to call on U.S. intelligence agencies to take steps to ensure information flows more freely among them, breaking down long-standing barriers and cultures of secrecy, federal officials say.
The report recommends creating formal procedures for analysts to file dissenting views, one official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Wednesday. Agency heads would still have discretion to decide whether to pay attention to conflicting analyses, the official added.
Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq had the strong support of U.S. intelligence centers, but it was far from unanimous. For example, the State Department's intelligence bureau did not agree with findings by the CIA (search) and other spy agencies that Iraq (search) had amassed secret caches of weapons of mass destruction.
The report, which runs hundreds of pages, is expected to be made public on Thursday, and officials declined to speak on the record until its release. Bush was briefed on the report Tuesday.
Among the main recommendations is creation of a new nonproliferation center to coordinate the effort to stem the spread of weapons technology, the official said.
Other officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity Tuesday, said the report proposes improved methods of sharing and coordination, beyond simply improving technology. A lesson learned from the report is that the information belongs to the entire government, not one agency, the officials said.
Officials said the report also goes into great detail on why prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs turned out to be flawed.
It examines factors that might have led to errors, one official said, such as whether policy-makers were seeking preconceived conclusions, whether foreign intelligence agencies had reached similar conclusions and whether analysts had too little information to work with.
Another individual who has read the report, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the commission will recommend bringing more thoughts and ideas to the table, particularly conflicting intelligence assessments. In a high-level estimate on Iraq assembled in October 2002, the commission has found dissenting voices were never heard on important issues.
For instance, the Energy Department believed that Iraq was pursuing aluminum tubes for rockets, not uranium enrichment. The Air Force doubted that Iraq had made unmanned aerial vehicles (search) that could be armed with weapons of mass destruction to attack the United States.
The individual said the end result was the appearance of overwhelming evidence of attempts by Iraq to significantly arm itself.
The nine-member panel considered a range of intelligence issues going beyond Iraq, including congressional oversight, satellite imagery and electronic snooping.
In the three years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. intelligence apparatus has been revamped. At Congress' direction, the government is establishing a new intelligence chief -- a director of national intelligence -- and a new center to focus on counterterrorism.
Even before the report's release, intelligence analysts were faulted for rejecting information that contradicted presumptions that Iraq had active weapons of mass destruction programs before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The report was expected to recommend steps to ensure a better flow of information among the 15 agencies that comprise the intelligence community. The commission will blame enduring cultures at each agency for driving decisions to prevent intelligence sharing among them, U.S. officials said.
The report took more than a year of work, and the White House has taken pains to signal it is taking the panel's findings seriously. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush would discuss the report with Cabinet members on Thursday, immediately after the president meets with the full commission.
"Making sure we have the best possible intelligence is critical to protecting the American people," McClellan said. "We will carefully consider the recommendations and act quickly on the recommendations as well."
Bush created the commission under pressure after U.S. inspectors failed to find any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, or WMD, despite prewar administration assertions about deadly stockpiles.
U.S. officials say the commission took apart the Iraq intelligence with a highly critical eye, including the misstated estimates on the former regime's efforts to obtain yellowcake uranium (search) from Africa.
Underscoring what's almost certain to be a political debate with the report's official release, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee has already called on Bush to fix intelligence problems.
"These tasks still require action," Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said in a statement Tuesday.