WASHINGTON – Senators on an intelligence panel are seeking to declassify more information from two Senate reports on prewar intelligence on Iraq, saying too much was kept secret.
The bipartisan group on Tuesday asked a government commission to consider whether portions of the reports could be made public without harming national security.
It's the first time lawmakers have appealed to the Public Interest Declassification Board since it was established in 2004 as a place for members of Congress to appeal if they think federal agencies are unnecessarily classifying material in the name of national security.
The two reports, released earlier this month, concluded there was no evidence Saddam Hussein had ties with Al Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. They also found that Saddam's regime did not have weapons of mass destruction and was not actively seeking to acquire them.
Democrats claim the reports undercut President Bush's justification for invading Iraq. Republicans say the reports contain little new information and accuse Democrats of trying to score political points in an election year.
When the reports were issued, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he was concerned that some information was classified to shield officials from being held accountable, not for national security reasons.
"The American people have the right to know the rest of this story, so that they can decide for themselves whether to hold public officials accountable for the statements that were made and actions that were taken that led us to war," Wyden said Tuesday.
Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said although he disagrees with many of the conclusions reached in the reports, "I do agree with my colleagues that too much of the report remains classified, and I am a firm believer that whatever need not remain classified, should not remain classified."
The letter is signed by about half of the Senate Intelligence Committee members: Bond; Wyden; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Mike DeWine, R-Ohio; Russ Feingold, D-Wis.; Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
The group did not identify which sections of the report it seeks to declassify.
The Public Interest Declassification Board is made up of nine national security experts — five appointed by the White House and four appointed by Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress.