Officials defend views on report

White House says intelligence findings support president in his Iraq strategy

September 28, 2006|By Peter Wallsten and Greg Miller | Peter Wallsten and Greg Miller,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- The White House defended its interpretation of declassified intelligence findings yesterday, saying they back President Bush's rationale for sticking with his strategy in Iraq, while Democrats and others said the document proved that the U.S. invasion had increased the terrorist threat.

However, the Bush administration refused to release the full 30-page report, saying that would place the lives of U.S. personnel in danger. The White House also rebuffed calls for the completion and release of a new intelligence report under way that focuses more closely on conditions in Iraq. That report will not be finished before next year, the White House said.

The five-page portion of the report declassified and released Tuesday concluded terrorism is growing and spreading worldwide, fueled by the war in Iraq, and that the "Iraq jihad" was shaping "a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives." The report is known as a National Intelligence Estimate, a consensus view of the CIA and 15 other U.S. intelligence agencies.

White House spokesman Tony Snow, facing questions about how President Bush's views that the U.S. is winning the war against terrorism square with the bleaker findings of the intelligence report, fiercely defended the president's stance.

"Let's start with the obvious. Since Sept. 11, 2001, we have not been attacked," Snow said, adding aggressive American tactics had made it difficult for terrorist organizations to mobilize and strike the United States.

However, a chorus of Democrats countered that the report showed that Iraq was inspiring, training and equipping militants to go elsewhere and launch attacks. "Iraq has become a breeding ground for terrorists," said Sen. Ken Salazar, a Colorado Democrat. "The world is a much more dangerous place today."

The debate over the intelligence findings comes as national security dominates the midterm election campaigns that will determine control of Congress, and as strained U.S. forces in Iraq struggle to establish order in the capital, Baghdad. U.S. military officials in Iraq said yesterday that the number of suicide attacks was the highest of any week yet. They said that attacks overall had risen in the past two weeks, especially around Baghdad, despite an influx of U.S. troops in Baghdad, as insurgents attempt to discredit the Iraqi government.

U.S. intelligence officials said they do not expect any other portions of the National Intelligence Estimate to be declassified. Officials from both parties who have read the document said the pages that have not been released provide far more detail on the complexion of the spread of Islamic radicalism, but are consistent with the "key judgments" that were declassified.

"It just expands on those key judgments," said a senior U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It's not like there's a version A and a version B. They are the underpinning or basis for the statements" that were released.

Rep. Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the complete report "has more information on Iraq, more nuance, more detail."

"But I'm not telling you these key judgments are an unfair representation of the report," she said.

Peter Wallsten and Greg Miller write for the Los Angeles Times.

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