Saturday, June 21, 2003

Bush Speech Overstated Iraq Report
Hussein-Al Qaeda Link Wasn't Definite

Sunday, June 22, 2003; Page A01

In a nationally televised address last October in which he sought to rally congressional support for a resolution authorizing war against Iraq, President Bush declared that the government of Saddam Hussein posed an immediate threat to the United States by outlining what he said was evidence pointing to its ongoing ties with al Qaeda.

A still-classified national intelligence report circulating within the Bush administration at the time, however, portrayed a far less clear picture about the link between Iraq and al Qaeda than the one presented by the president, according to U.S. intelligence analysts and congressional sources who have read the report.

The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which represented the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community, contained cautionary language about Iraq's connections with al Qaeda and warnings about the reliability of conflicting reports by Iraqi defectors and captured al Qaeda members about the ties, the sources said.

"There has always been an internal argument within the intelligence community about the connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda," said a senior intelligence official, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity. "The NIE had alternative views."


Bush, in his speech in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, made his case that Iraq had ties with al Qaeda, by mentioning several items such as high-level contacts that "go back a decade." He said "we've learned" that Iraq trained al Qaeda members "in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases." Although the president offered essentially circumstantial evidence, his remarks contained none of the caveats about the reliability of this information as contained in the national intelligence document, sources said.


The WP no less. hhhmmm...


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