On the November 14 edition of CNN's Paula Zahn Now, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund falsely claimed that former "Democratic Senator Chuck Robb [VA] headed a commission which looked into whether or not the president misled and manipulated the intelligence data" relating to Iraq. According to Fund, the commission concluded that "it didn't happen." In fact, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction -- co-chaired by Robb and Republican attorney and former judge Laurence Silberman -- did not investigate whether the Bush administration misled the public about intelligence. Nor, for that matter, has any other governmental entity to date. Rather, the Robb-Silberman Commission concluded that "[t]he Intelligence Community did not make or change any analytic judgments in response to political pressure" in the buildup to the Iraq war, a conclusion that has been disputed by some senior intelligence officials.
Fund's claim came in response to a comment by Democratic strategist Julian Epstein, who referred on Paula Zahn Now to "all of the revelations about the intelligence being manipulated." While it is not clear what Epstein and Fund meant by "manipulated," Fund's assertion that the Robb-Silberman Commission found that the Bush administration had not "misled" is false. In its March report to President Bush, the commission noted: "[W]e were not authorized to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence assessments they received from the Intelligence Community." Indeed, Bush's February 6, 2004, executive order establishing the commission limited the scope of its investigation to the production of intelligence:
[T]he Commission shall specifically examine the Intelligence Community's intelligence prior to the initiation of Operation Iraqi Freedom and compare it with the findings of the Iraq Survey Group and other relevant agencies or organizations concerning the capabilities, intentions, and activities of Iraq relating to the design, development, manufacture, acquisition, possession, proliferation, transfer, testing, potential or threatened use, or use of Weapons of Mass Destruction and related means of delivery.
Similarly, the first phase of the Senate Intelligence Committee's 2004 Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq determined that intelligence assessments were not tainted by political "pressure." But the committee postponed until after the 2004 presidential election analysis of whether the Bush administration misused that intelligence, pledging to include it in the second -- as yet uncompleted -- phase of the report.
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, even the conclusion of these two reports that analysts received no "pressure" in gathering intelligence has been disputed by some senior intelligence officials, including W. Patrick Lang, the former chief of the Middle East office of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and Richard Kerr, a onetime acting CIA director who led an internal investigation of the CIA's failure to correctly assess Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities.
From the November 14 edition of CNN's Paula Zahn Now:
EPSTEIN: But I think that the crisis that the president is involved in right now is not just related to Iraq. I think this president has basically lost credibility. The Scooter Libby indictment, all of the revelations about the intelligence being manipulated, the failures in Katrina, the fact that there is no domestic agenda right now. We're not doing anything on Social Security, or on --
PAULA ZAHN (host): John Fund --
ZAHN: You get the last word. You get 10 seconds.
FUND: Democratic Senator Chuck Robb headed a commission which looked into whether or not the president misled and manipulated the intelligence data. He concluded, along with every other commission member -- bipartisan -- it didn't happen.