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GOP Dismisses Democratic Calls for Joint Review of Pre-War Intelligence

Senate GOP chairmen rebuffed Democratic calls for an investigation into pre-war intelligence on Iraq’s weapons program Wednesday, saying the minority wants to politicize an issue that the committees are already looking into on a daily basis.

“I will not allow the committee to be politicized or to be used as an unwitting tool for any political strategist,” said Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who argued that a joint review is premature.

“[I]t’s an ongoing work that we have been conducting,” he said. “And so it isn’t like we haven’t had hearings on weapons of mass destruction; we have them every week, and in some cases even twice a week.”

Armed Services ranking member Carl Levin (D-Mich.) had requested that his committee and the Intelligence panel open a joint, public inquiry in light of recent disclosures that the military’s intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction was not complete.

But Roberts and Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), the Armed Services chairman, are confident that their panels should continue to work independently.

“If there is a problem in regards to the Defense Department and the intelligence community, why, rest assured we’ll get to the bottom of it,” Roberts said.

“I just urge the American public to give us time and to feel a sense of confidence that those of us here in the Congress are proceeding … to assess the facts and then, at such time as we’re ready, to let the members of the committee, hopefully in a hearing status, express their views on the ultimate findings after we’ve done our homework,” Warner added.

Upon hearing the news, Levin said he is “disappointed” that Roberts is not ready to convene a joint hearing.

Levin had been heartened by earlier statements from Warner supporting a joint hearing and has written him a letter urging him to launch a bipartisan inquiry of just the Armed Services Committee in light of Roberts’ decision, Levin said.

Roberts lambasted Democrats for making political hay out the issue and urged his colleagues to “do their homework” before opining on whether the Bush administration acted appropriately in invading Iraq.

“The next time a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee expresses an opinion on this topic, I encourage you to ask them if they have done their homework,” he added.

The committees are currently reviewing reams of documents provided by the Defense Department, and Roberts said he would give all panel members time to thoroughly examine the paper trail before proceeding to a more formal investigation.

“First, we will gather and evaluate the intelligence underlying the pre-war assessments of Iraq’s WMD capability and its connections to terrorist groups,” Roberts said. “Second, we will evaluate the reasonableness of the assessments, considering the quantity and quality of the intelligence. Third and finally, we will evaluate the accuracy of those assessments by comparing them with the results of the ongoing search in Iraq for the prohibited weapons and the connection to terrorist groups.”

Warner defended top administration officials, saying he’s seen no evidence anyone acted improperly.

“The evidence that I have examined does not rise to give the presumption that anyone in this administration has hyped or cooked or embellished such evidence to a particular purpose, and I regret that those allegations have been made,” he said.

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