Rockefeller Says Too Late for Prosecution on Iraq Intel

Posted June 5, 2008 at 11:34am

Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) stopped just short of calling for criminal prosecution of Bush administration officials who he says misled the nation into going to war in Iraq, even as he called many of their actions “heinous.”

In releasing his panel’s official report of the gap between the administration’s assertions in the 2002 and 2003 run-up to the war and the intelligence used to back them up, Rockefeller and other Intelligence panel Democrats said their investigation found that White House and other administration officials appeared to have deliberately made misleading claims.

Those claims were about the extent to which Iraq was linked to al-Qaida, Iraq’s weapons capabilities and the expected positive reaction of the Iraqi people to a U.S. invasion of their country.

The president, vice president, secretary of state, national security advisor and others “said things that they knew or should have known were not true,” Rockefeller said. He said they all had access to intelligence reports that could not confirm many of the claims they made, including that a Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague; that Iraq had deeply buried bunkers for weapons of mass destruction; and that Iraqi agents sought nuclear materials in Niger.

Despite that, Rockefeller said the time for criminal prosecutions has passed, because it should have been done when evidence first surfaced years ago that administration officials exaggerated claims to make their case for taking the nation to war.

“Should it be done in the grand sweep of history? Yes,” Rockefeller said of prosecuting alleged wrongdoers. “Should it be done now? No.”

Still, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he has already asked Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to look into whether former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld purposely misinformed the military oversight panel when he asserted that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had buried weapons so deeply that they were not vulnerable to conventional weapons.

Wyden said Rumsfeld was likely privy to information showing that intelligence officials had concluded that the buried WMD sites in Iraq could in fact be destroyed with conventional weaponry.

But Republicans on the panel took issue with the long-awaited report, saying it did not uncover unlawful activity, particularly by former Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, whom Democrats had previously accused of rigging war intelligence to match the administration’s rhetoric.

In their “minority views” portion of the report, Intelligence ranking member Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) stated that the report’s conclusions “are dedicated to vague allegations of ‘inappropriate’ activities or of failures by administration officials with little explanation to justify such claims.”

The four continued, “After four years of making unsubstantiated allegations of unlawful activities, the calculus appears to be that proclamations of ‘inappropriate’ behavior will generate the desired headlines focusing only on the caustic words, rather than the lack of substance or lack of evidence behind them.”