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Bush OKs Panel to Probe Pre-Iraq War Intelligence
Paula Wolfson
VOA, White House
02 Feb 2004, 19:03 UTC

President Bush is setting up an independent investigation to look at intelligence gathered prior to the Iraq war, specifically, assertions that Saddam Hussein had amassed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. The announcement came shortly before Mr. Bush met at the White House with the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, David Kay.

President Bush indicates he is approving a commission with a broad mandate: to look at all intelligence gathering related to weapons of mass destruction.

Until just a few days ago, the White House resisted the idea of an independent inquiry. But the president now acknowledges one is necessary, saying he wants to get all the facts. "And so I'm putting together an independent, bipartisan commission to analyze where we stand and what we can do better as we fight this war again terror," said Mr. Bush.

The notion of an independent investigation of pre-war intelligence gained momentum last week when David Kay testified before members of congress.

Mr. Kay, who resigned last month as chief U.S. weapons inspector, said it is unlikely that large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction will ever be found, saying everyone was misled by faulty information from the intelligence community.

President Bush has said the search for weapons must go on while the investigation of intelligence takes place. Speaking to reporters at the end of a meeting with his cabinet, he made clear that no matter what is found or not found in Iraq, he believes the war was justified. "We do know that Saddam Hussein had the intent and the capabilities to cause great harm. We know he was a danger," he said.

The president said he wanted to talk to David Kay before formally launching the commission, and two hours later, he did just that.

The two had a private meeting over lunch at the White House. Mr. Kay left without making any public comments. The only information on the session came from presidential spokesman Mark McClellan. "This is an opportunity for the president to hear directly from Dr. Kay and hear what he has learned as the former head of the Iraq survey group," he said.

President Bush is expected to formally announce the make-up of the independent commission soon. By establishing the panel by executive order, rather than through an act of congress, he will give the White House greater say over its composition and the timetable for its work.

Administration officials indicate the president will name a team of experts familiar with intelligence gathering procedures, including some who held top government posts in the past.