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During the November 18 edition of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, New York Times columnist David Brooks falsely claimed that the Bush administration has been exonerated by "commission after commission" of allegations that it manipulated prewar intelligence.
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, although the Senate Intelligence Committee's "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq" concluded that the administration had not exerted "pressure" on the intelligence community to arrive at certain conclusions -- a conclusion that has been challenged by some senior intelligence officials -- it postponed an investigation into the administration's use of intelligence until after the 2004 presidential election. As Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant reminded viewers later in the NewsHour segment, it was the as yet uncompleted "phase two" of the Senate Intelligence Committee probe that was to determine whether the administration had manipulated or distorted prewar intelligence.
Moreover, neither the report by the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (better known as the Robb-Silberman commission) nor the Butler report on British intelligence investigated the Bush administration's use of intelligence. The overview of the Robb-Silberman report noted: "[W]e were not authorized to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence assessments they received from the Intelligence Community."
From the November 18 edition of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer:
RAY SUAREZ (NewsHour senior correpondent): Let's talk about the debate over prewar intelligence. It flared up in a big way again this week.
BROOKS: I think it's a way for the Democrats to try to undermine the president. Again, my problem with it is that you can fault the administration on many things in Iraq. But there is no evidence they consciously lied about intelligence. Maybe they didn't tell the whole story, but they have been cleared by commission after commission. The Democrats have produced no evidence of willful misrepresentation. And so to charge this, which is a heinous charge, is to me just an absurdity, an insult. And on this, I think the administration is completely correct. The Democrats are often, you know, conspiracy.
SUAREZ: So in the months before the invasion, when the president said it was still possible to stop the war and that war was a last resort, do you think that was true?
BROOKS: Well, I think what he said about the war was very consistent with what the Clinton administration said. They believe that Saddam was five years away from a nuclear weapon. The German intelligence thought three years. That is more or less consistent with what the Bush administration said, what the National Intelligence Estimate said, which the Bush administration released. You looked at that, you thought Saddam was a real problem with WMD. And so the idea that they made this up, the idea that they exaggerated, they were lying, no one has ever actually shown evidence that they were misrepresenting in any way.
SUAREZ: Very quickly.
OLIPHANT: All the more reason to have phase two of the investigation of what happened, so that specific statements can be examined in terms of whether there is any support for them.