Rockefeller Reflects on Iraq Intel Forecast

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, photographed during a 2005 discussion of pre-war intelligence.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, photographed during a 2005 discussion of pre-war intelligence. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The latest report from the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into pre-war intelligence on Iraq was released Friday.

Based mostly on two classified reports, it showed that many of the predictions made by U.S. Intelligence agencies in the months before the invasion were accurate. Among them: that post-Saddam Iraq would face sectarian violence, that al-Qaida and Iran would try to exploit the situation and that building a democracy in Iraq would be a long and difficult process.

But several other predictions proved untrue, including expectations that Iraq's oil supplies would boom and that terrorism would dissipate in three to five years.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia, heads the Senate Intelligence Committee. He talked about the findings with Liane Hansen. Here are highlights of the conversation:

What do you think this report shows?

I think it shows that the intelligence community as a whole, all 18 branches, gave the administration plenty of warning about the difficulties we would face in Iraq. These warnings were widely distributed to the highest levels and I think the administration either didn't read them or didn't follow their advice.

Isn't hindsight 20-20? Some of the predictions were not so accurate and several Republicans say the report cherry picks certain issues ...

Yeah, and that will always happen. But the cherry picking of intelligence was done by the president. They wanted to go to war. They wanted to take down Saddam. And they had to create or ignore the intelligence that would make that possible.

The central question has still not been answered: Was intelligence on Iraq manipulated publicly to make a case for war? Can that question really be addressed fairly by the committee? Sen. Kit Bond, a Republican from Missouri, says that the committee's work "has become embroiled in politics and partisanship ..."

All during the whole process of this, people never said that. People never said we're arguing this in a partisan way. It was all focused on the content. And in fact, we didn't even give our own formal conclusions, because we decided that we wanted to let the intelligence speak for itself.

What difference does this information make to the situation on the ground, in Iraq, now?

Intelligence is at the head of the spear. You don't fight a war until you know the intelligence. We do this not because we expect to change present policy. We do this because we never want any administration to avoid the discipline of professional intelligence people who spend their whole lives working on different areas of the world and give us better intelligence than we could get from anywhere else.

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