Split at C.I.A. and F.B.I. on Iraqi Ties to Al QaedaBy JAMES RISEN and DAVID JOHNSTON
Feb. 1 — 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.
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
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.
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
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
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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