CNN, Fox News falsely suggested Senate report finding Bush administration "misled Americans" about Iraq-Al Qaeda link was approved only by Dems

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

CNN's Carol Costello and Ed Henry, and Fox News' Brit Hume falsely suggested that only the Democratic members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence approved the committee's June 5 "Report on Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government Officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information." In addition to the committee's Democrats, Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe endorsed the report and stated that it "accomplished its primary objective."

In June 5 reports on CNN's The Situation Room and Fox News' Special Report, CNN correspondent Carol Costello, CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry, and Special Report host Brit Hume falsely suggested that only the Democratic members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence approved the committee's June 5 "Report on Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government Officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information." In fact, the report had bipartisan support: Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel (NE) and Olympia Snowe (ME) endorsed the report and stated that it "accomplished its primary objective." As Costello noted, the report concluded that "the Bush administration misused intelligence to build its case [for war in Iraq] in 2003 and misled Americans about links between Iraq and Al Qaeda."

On The Situation Room, Costello reported that "Republicans dismiss the report as partisan gamesmanship." In a later Situation Room report, Henry reported that "[t]he Senate report released by Democrats rapped the president for proclaiming Saddam wanted weapons of mass destruction to hand them off to terrorists when the intelligence did not back that up." Henry also asserted that "Republicans mocked the report for rehashing old ground" and said that Republicans "noted top Democrats used the same intelligence to make ominous statements." Similarly, on Special Report, Hume reported that "Republicans called the report a partisan exercise, and they say [former Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld's comments had -- were distorted." At no point did Costello, Henry, or Hume mention that the report had bipartisan support.

Republican Sens. Christopher S. Bond (MO), the vice chairman of the committee, Saxby Chambliss (GA), Orrin Hatch (UT), and Richard Burr (NC) signed a "Minority View[]" opposing the conclusions of the full committee's report, which they referred to as a "majority-only written report." But in a document appended to the report, titled "Additional Views of Senators Hagel and Snowe," Hagel and Snowe asserted of the report, and a second report in which the committee detailed secret meetings Pentagon officials held with Iranian dissidents: "We endorse the reports as the final chapter of the Committee's inquiry into prewar intelligence with regard to Iraq." In the "Additional Views" document, Hagel and Snowe also asserted: "The report accomplished its primary objective, unanimously agreed to by the committee: to evaluate 'whether public statements and reports and testimony regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials made between the Gulf War period and the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information.' "

Further, in his own "Additional Views" document, Rockefeller wrote: "On April 1, 2008, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence approved on a bipartisan vote of 10-5 the remaining two reports of its investigation into pre-war intelligence on Iraq and related matters." Eight Democrats serve on the committee, meaning that two Republican members also approved the reports' release. According to a June 6 McClatchy Newspapers report, Hagel and Snowe were the Republicans who voted to release the report.

Regarding the Bush administration's statements linking Saddam's Iraq to Al Qaeda, the committee concluded:

(U) Conclusion 12: Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.

Intelligence assessments, including multiple CIA reports and the November 2002 NIE [National Intelligence Estimate], dismissed the claim that Iraq and al-Qa'ida were cooperating partners. According to an undisputed INR [State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research] footnote in the NIE, there was no intelligence information that supported the claim that Iraq would provide weapons of mass destruction to al-Qa'ida. The credibility of the principal intelligence source behind the claim that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with biological and chemical weapons training was regularly questioned by DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], and later by the CIA. The Committee repeats its conclusion from a prior report that "assessments were inconsistent regarding the likelihood that Saddam Hussein provided chemical and biological weapons (CBW) training to al-Qa'ida."

(U) Conclusion 13: Statements in the major speeches analyzed, as well additional statements, regarding Iraq's contacts with al-Qa'ida were substantiated by intelligence information. However, policymakers' statements did not accurately convey the intelligence assessments of the nature of these contacts, and left the impression that the contacts led to substantive Iraqi cooperation or support of al-Qa'ida.

Regarding the Bush administration's statements indicating that Saddam would give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States, the committee concluded:

(U) Conclusion 15: Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.

The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate assessed that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons, and was unwilling to conduct terrorist attacks [sic] the US using conventional, chemical or biological weapons at that time, in part because he feared doing so would give the US a stronger case for war with Iraq. This judgment was echoed by both earlier and later intelligence community assessments. All of these assessments noted that gauging Saddam's intentions was quite difficult, and most suggested that he would be more likely to initiate hostilities if he felt that a US invasion was imminent.

From the report's "Additional Views of Senators Hagel and Snowe":

We also believe that the process by which the Committee drafted and approved the reports could have been significantly improved. The Committee took more than four years to review information of great import. The process was marked by partisan quarrels; however, we believe that every member had sufficient time to review and comment on the respective reports. In fact, of the 165 amendments filed, over 50% were resolved or withdrawn. Unfortunately, members never had an opportunity to vote up or down on the remaining amendments. We endorse the reports as the final chapter of the Committee's inquiry into prewar intelligence with regard to Iraq. However, given the opportunity to vote, we also would have likely supported some of the amendments that had been filed, which would have improved the final product.

On balance, these reports contain critical information that should unequivocally be publicly released, enabling the public to formulate their own conclusions. These reports in no way preclude the committee from undertaking additional inquiries into the prewar intelligence with regard to Iraq. These reports simply bring closure to the Committee's review.

[...]

The report accomplished it's primary objective, unanimously agreed to by the committee: to evaluate "whether public statements and reports and testimony regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials made between the Gulf War period and the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information."

From the June 5 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming to The Situation Room right now. Carol, what's going on?

COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, on the heels of Scott McClellan's critical book about the run-up to the Iraq war, a Senate report says the Bush administration misused intelligence to build its case in 2003 and misled Americans about links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Senate Intelligence Committee chairman John Rockefeller says the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when it was, quote, "unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even nonexistent." Republicans dismiss the report as partisan gamesmanship.

[...]

BLITZER: Fresh on the heels of a scathing tell-all book by a former press secretary, the White House is being slammed once again right now over the run-up to the war in Iraq, this time, a brand-new report just out by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry -- Ed.

HENRY: Wolf, this long-awaited report could have landed with a thud. But Scott McClellan's book is giving Democrats new ammunition to charge the White House misled the nation into war.

[begin video clip]

HENRY: What's troublesome for the president is the new report goes beyond just saying the intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq was wrong. It concludes the White House left out contradictory evidence and exaggerated intelligence to make the threat from Saddam Hussein sound more ominous.

ROCKEFELLER: It is entirely possible that the administration had not presented these facts, that if they had not done that as facts to the American people in making the case for it, we might have avoided this catastrophe.

HENRY: The Senate report released by Democrats rapped the president proclaiming Saddam wanted weapons of mass destruction to hand them off to terrorists when the intelligence did not back that up. Ditto for Vice President Cheney suggesting 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta may have met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague.

CHENEY: We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

HENRY: Republicans mocked the report for rehashing old ground.

BOND: The attempt by my friends on the other side of the aisle to score election year points.

HENRY: They noted top Democrats used the same intelligence to make ominous statements, such as Rockefeller saying in 2002 --

ROCKEFELLER: There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years.

HENRY: The new report comes just a week after former White House press secretary Scott McClellan came forward to allege the administration used propaganda to sell the war.

McCLELLAN: What happened was that the case was packaged together, overstated, and oversold to the American people.

HENRY: White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, however, insisted the administration did not intentionally mislead the nation.

PERINO: No one lied. And I think that's sort of the point of all this. These issues have been looked at many times.

[end video clip]

HENRY: But Senator Rockefeller said this is not about rehashing history. It's about trying to learn a lesson so the same mistakes are not repeated -- Wolf.

From the June 5 edition of Fox News' Special Report:

HUME: A new Senate Intelligence Committee report on pre-war intelligence reiterates earlier conclusions that the Bush administration exaggerated Saddam Hussein's links to terrorism and ignored doubts about Iraq's arms program. Senator -- Democratic Senator Ron Wyden [OR] is now calling for an investigation of congressional testimony from then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Republicans called the report a partisan exercise, and they say Rumsfeld's comments had -- were distorted.

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