WASHINGTON -- The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee accused the Bush administration yesterday of suppressing a classified intelligence report that paints a "grim" picture of the situation in Iraq.
Rep. Jane Harman of California sent a letter to CIA Director Michael V. Hayden requesting the release of the report and charging that the agency was withholding the information for political considerations, which she said was demoralizing to the agency's work force.
"I believe that the intelligence community has produced an in-depth intelligence review of Iraq, but that the material has been stamped `draft' and will not be finalized" until after the November elections, Harman said in the letter, which was released by her office. "The integrity of the organization you lead is at stake."
The letter underscores the political tensions in Washington over intelligence reports that have provided fodder for Democrats in their criticism of the Bush administration's foreign policy and management of the war in Iraq.
Last month, the White House - under pressure - declassified a separate intelligence assessment that concluded the Iraq war was exacerbating the Islamic terrorist threat by fueling resentment toward the United States and providing a training ground for terrorist recruits.
The director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, has acknowledged that the intelligence community is working on a new National Intelligence Estimate on the Iraq war. Such assessments represent the consensus views of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.
A DNI spokesman said the NIE on Iraq began in August, and Bush administration officials have indicated it is unlikely to be ready for release until next year.
Harman previously has expressed frustration with that timetable. She said yesterday that she recently has learned of a separate assessment on Iraq that is much closer to being finished.
In a conference call with reporters, Harman said she had few details on the document but is "confident" a completed draft is being held at the CIA. She said it should be made available to members of the House Intelligence Committee.
`It is grim'
"I know that there is a substantially complete assessment on Iraq," Harman said. "I understand it is grim. I understand many working inside the intelligence community are frustrated because the release of that document is being blocked."
She declined to elaborate on the source of her information. The CIA said it received Harman's letter yesterday and did not want to respond through media reports.
"But it's wrong to suggest that the White House is preventing dissemination of analysis on Iraq," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said. "CIA is committed to keeping Congress fully informed, and that includes its views of trends in Iraq. That's been done."
Harman's conference call was organized by a group of foreign policy experts and critics of the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq. Harman was joined by Rand Beers, a former counterterrorism official in the Bush White House, and Wendy Sherman, a former State Department official in the Clinton administration.
Greg Miller writes for the Los Angeles Times.