By James Risen and David JohnstonNew York Times
February 2, 2003
The Bush administration's efforts to build a case for war against Iraq using intelligence to link it to Al Qaeda and the development of prohibited weapons has created friction within United States intelligence agencies, government officials said. Some analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency have complained that senior administration officials have exaggerated the significance of some intelligence reports about Iraq, particularly about its possible links to terrorism, in order to strengthen their political argument for war, government officials said.
At the Federal Bureau of Investigation, some investigators said they were baffled by the Bush administration's insistence on a solid link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden's network. "We've been looking at this hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's there," a government official said. The tension within the intelligence agencies comes as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is poised to go before the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to present evidence of Iraq's links to terrorism and its continuing efforts to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
Interviews with administration officials revealed divisions between, on one side, the Pentagon and the National Security Council, which has become a clearinghouse for the evidence being prepared for Mr. Powell, and, on the other, the C.I.A. and, to some degree, the State Department and agencies like the F.B.I. In the interviews, two officials, Paul D. Wolfowitz, deputy defense secretary, and Stephen J. Hadley, deputy national security adviser, were cited as being most eager to interpret evidence deemed murky by intelligence officials to show a clearer picture of Iraq's involvement in illicit weapons programs and terrorism. Their bosses, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, have also pressed a hard line, officials said.
A senior administration official said discussions in preparation for Mr. Powell's presentation were intense, but not rancorous, and said there was little dissension among President Bush's top advisers about the fundamental nature of President Saddam Hussein's government. "I haven't detected anyone who thinks this a not compelling case," the official said. Mr. Bush asserted in his State of the Union address this week that Iraq was protecting and aiding Qaeda operatives, but American intelligence and law enforcement officials said the evidence was fragmentary and inconclusive.
"It's more than just skepticism," said one official, describing the feelings of some analysts in the intelligence agencies. "I think there is also a sense of disappointment with the community's leadership that they are not standing up for them at a time when the intelligence is obviously being politicized."
Neither George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, nor the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, have publicly engaged in the debate about the evidence on Iraq in recent weeks, even as the Bush administration has intensified its efforts to build the case for a possible war. The last time Mr. Tenet found himself at the center of the public debate over intelligence concerning Iraq was in October, when the Senate declassified a brief letter Mr. Tenet wrote describing some of the C.I.A.'s assessments about Iraq.
His letter stated that the C.I.A. believed that Iraq had, for the time being, probably decided not to conduct terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical or biological weapons against the United States, but the letter added that Mr. Hussein might resort to terrorism if he believed that an American-led attack was about to begin.
Alliances within the group of officials involved have strengthened the argument that Mr. Bush should take a firm view of the evidence. "Wolfowitz and Hadley are very compatible," said one administration official. "They have a very good working relationship."
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