WASHINGTON – Leading Democratic senators, emboldened by what seemed to be a chink in President Bush's armor, kept the pressure on the White House Tuesday over the use of faulty information in this year's State of the Union address.
"The president's statement that Iraq was attempting to acquire African uranium was not a mistake. It was not inadvertent. It was not a slip," charged Armed Services Committee ranking member Carl Levin (search) of Michigan on the Senate floor Tuesday morning.
"It was negotiated between the CIA and the [National Security Council]. It was calculated. It was misleading," Levin added.
"Even more troubling, however," he continued, "is the fact that the uranium statement appears to be but one of a number of several questionable statements and exaggerations by the intelligence community and administration officials that were issued in the buildup to the war."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (search) of South Dakota said the uranium flap had created such a controversy that it had "gone beyond a matter of intelligence."
Daschle called on the president to acknowledge the need for clarification on this and other questions, and said legislative and rhetorical questions would be discussed in the coming days.
In the Jan. 28 State of the Union address, Bush built a case for war against Iraq. But listed among the charges against Saddam Hussein was a 16-word sentence that turned out to be based partly on falsified documents.
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," the president said.
On Monday, Bush said the intelligence he received was "darn good" and that he wouldn't have used it if it hadn't been up to snuff.
"Subsequent to the speech, the CIA had some doubts. But ... when they talked about the speech and when they looked at the speech, it was cleared," he explained. "Otherwise, I wouldn't have put it in the speech. I'm not interested in talking about intelligence unless it's cleared by the CIA. And as Director Tenet said, it was cleared by the CIA."
Off Capitol Hill, Sen. Ted Kennedy (search), D-Mass., said the president's use of bad intelligence to make the case for war against Iraq had "undermined America's prestige and credibility."
"It's a disgrace that the case for war seems to have been based on shoddy intelligence, hyped intelligence, and even false intelligence," Kennedy told the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
"All the evidence points to the conclusion that they put a spin on the intelligence and a spin on the truth, Kennedy added. "They have undermined America's prestige and credibility in the world and undermined the trust that Americans should and must have in what their nation tells them."