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Archive for Saturday, April 9, 2005

CIA asked to explain prewar intelligence gaps

April 9, 2005

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— The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the CIA to account for significant gaps in information that the agency provided to the panel as part of its investigation last year into prewar intelligence failures on Iraq, congressional officials said Friday.

Committee officials said they had compiled a list of apparent discrepancies between material that was provided to Congress and new disclosures contained in a report released last week by a presidential commission on American intelligence on illicit arms.

Lawmakers are said to be particularly concerned that the committee was not told about warnings relayed to senior CIA officials before the war that an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball was unreliable. The defector, the principal source for prewar U.S. claims that Iraq had mobile biological weapons laboratories, has since been discredited.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., raised the issue with "senior intelligence officials" this week, according to a senior aide to Roberts. CIA Director Porter J. Goss appeared Thursday before the committee in closed session.

Other lawmakers have publicly expressed frustration that new details are surfacing nine months after the committee finished its own exhaustive probe of intelligence on Iraq.

"That's the type of information we would have expected to get in our inquiry," said the aide to Roberts. "We're interested to know: Did (CIA officials) ignore us, not understand us or deliberately keep things from us? We don't want agencies to think they can play cute" with requests for information.

The aide noted the CIA had been quick to acknowledge the problem and promise an explanation.

The congressional scrutiny comes as the CIA has launched its own internal examination of why disagreements over Curveball's reliability did not lead to a rejection of his claims and were not reported to Congress.

Goss "has asked the agency to look into this issue to determine what happened so we're able to take steps to ensure nothing like it happens again," said CIA Spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise.

Goss was sworn in as agency director last September, two months after the Senate committee issued its critical report.

Intelligence Committee aides pointed to several key discrepancies. Among them was the disclosure in the so-called WMD commission's report that a senior CIA official had met with a foreign intelligence official who warned that Curveball was "crazy" and possibly a fabricator.

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