Powell says some in US intelligence knew sourcing on Iraq was suspect
WASHINGTON (AFP) Sep 13, 2004
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday he was disappointed that some groups within American intelligence knew that sourcing of information used to justify the invasion of Iraq was suspect but did not inform the authorities.
Before the March 2003 invasion, Powell presented the United Nations with data proclaiming to prove that Iraq was engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction but no such weapons have been found so far.
The US failure to find weapons of mass destruction has since embarrassed the US administration, damaged its standing around the world and led to sharp criticism of US intelligence community.
"What also distressed me is that there were some in the intelligence community who had knowledge that the sourcing was suspect and that was not known to me," Powell lamented before a Senate hearing on moves to reform the American intelligence community.
He charged that these groups had put out "disclaimers" about some of the sourcing that were not known to the people who were analysing and making conclusions of the information on Iraq.
"What I have found over the last year and several months is that some of the sourcing that was used to give me the basis upon which to bring forward that judgement to the United Nations were flawed, were wrong," Powell said, when grilled by members of the Senate committee on government affairs.
Powell had said previously that the information he used as the basis for his landmark speech in the United Nations on February 5, 2003, about a month before the US-led invasion of Iraq, was "not solid."
Although he agreed that President George W. Bush had taken the right decision to launch military action against the country, Powell had indicated he might have refrained from recommending an invasion if he had had proof that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.
On Monday, he pressed the need for a national intelligence director with strong budget and personal authority, saying "you are less likely to have those kind of mistakes made" under such a powerful person in charge of US intelligence."
He said the flow of intelligence information during the pre-Iraq war period "did not all come together in a single way" for efficient sharing of data by key administration officials.
President Bush last week called for a national intelligence director along the lines recommended by an independent commission that investigated the circumstances under which terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, killing around 3,000 people, and recommended steps to tighten security.
Powell said he felt that under the new system, intelligence could be shared "openly and widely" by all those responsible for making key decisions.
"Then, it is less likely you'll have a kind of situation where I go up there and I am saying something while there are people in one part of the intelligence community not connected well enough to another part of the intelligence community know at that time I was saying that some of the sourcing was suspect," he said.
"What troubled me was that the sourcing was weak. And the sourcing had not been vetted widely enough across the intelligence community."
Powell said "we all believed" then that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons although "it turned out that we have not found any stockpiles and it is unlikely we will find any stockpiles.
"And we have to now go back and find out why we had a different judgment," he saidAll rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.