SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 54
June 26, 2003

WHITE HOUSE "OVERSTATED" IRAQI WMD THREAT

The House Intelligence Committee has found that the Bush Administration "overstat[ed] the case" concerning the threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, said ranking member Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), describing the Committee's preliminary findings thus far.

"When discussing Iraq's WMD, administration officials rarely included the caveats and qualifiers attached to the intelligence community's judgments," said Rep. Harman during the June 25 House debate on the 2004 intelligence authorization act.

"The committee is now investigating whether the intelligence case on Iraq's WMD was based on circumstantial evidence rather than hard facts and whether the intelligence community made clear to the policy-makers and Congress that most of its analytic judgments were based on things like aerial photographs and Iraqi defector interviews, not hard facts," said Rep. Harman.

She repeatedly referred to the Committee's activity as an "investigation" even though that term has been proscribed by Senate Republicans such as Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) who say it is "pejorative."

"Iraq did have ties to terrorist groups, but the [House Committee] investigation suggests that the intelligence linking al Qaeda to Iraq, a prominent theme in the administration's statements prior to the war, [was] contradictory, contrary to what was claimed by the Administration," she said.

"I think it is very important that the committee hold public hearings, and I have the gentleman from Florida's (Chairman Goss') personal commitment that we will. I hope our first hearing will occur in July. Our committee also decided to produce a written, unclassified report as promptly as possible," she said.

The transcript of the June 25 House floor debate on the 2004 intelligence authorization act is posted here:

Rep. Harman's statement begins here:

Meanwhile, "The State Department's intelligence division is disputing the Central Intelligence Agency's conclusion that mysterious trailers found in Iraq were for making biological weapons, United States government officials said today," reported Douglas Jehl in the New York Times.

"In a classified June 2 memorandum, the officials said, the department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research said it was premature to conclude that the trailers were evidence of an Iraqi biological weapons program, as President Bush has done." See:

Questions about the Administration's presentation of the case for war against Iraq are not going away and evidence of public frustration with the closed-door official proceedings to date is beginning to mount.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists this week issued "A call for a truly public public hearing." See:

"This is no game," said Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) on June 24. "For the first time in our history, the United States has gone to war because of intelligence reports claiming that a country posed a threat to our Nation."

"Congress should not be content to use standard operating procedures to look into this extraordinary matter. We should accept no substitute for a full, bipartisan investigation by Congress into the issue of our prewar intelligence on the threat from Iraq and the use of that intelligence." See Senator Byrd's remarks here:


ANOTHER LOOK AT THE 2004 HOUSE INTELLIGENCE BILL

The House version of the 2004 intelligence authorization act would make it legal for "certain qualified aliens" to receive, possess and transport "explosive materials" if they are in the United States to cooperate with the CIA or the United States military (HR 2417, section 332).

The otherwise unexplained provision is apparently intended to facilitate the US training of foreign military or paramilitary forces by the CIA and the Pentagon.

Another section of the bill instructs the DCI to prepare a report on "intelligence lessons learned as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom (section 344). But no provision is made for an unclassified version of such a report, observed John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org.

"The Administration would strenuously object if certain high priority transformational development programs affecting the IC's [intelligence community's] future collection and research and development strategies are not authorized as requested," the White House warned in a June 25 statement on the House version of the 2004 intelligence authorization act.

The message seems to have been received. The new bill "postures the United States for the future with a unified overhead imagery intelligence architecture," House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) promised later in the day, apparently referring to the troubled and massively expensive Future Imagery Architecture program.


NEW RESOURCES ON FISA

A new Congressional Research Service report presents the arguments for and against pending modifications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law that governs the search and surveillance of suspected foreign intelligence and terrorist targets.

See "Proposed Change to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) under S. 113" by Jennifer Elsea, May 19:

An overview of the FISA "before and after the USA Patriot Act" is provided by FBI special agent Michael J. Bulzomi in the latest issue of the FBI's Law Enforcement Bulletin. See:

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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