There is no evidence that Saddam Hussein had any relationship with the late terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or with al-Qaida, the Senate Intelligence Committee says in a new report.
The partially declassified review of U.S. intelligence in Iraq prior to the toppling of Saddam Hussein refutes several claims made by the Bush administration.
Republicans dismiss the report as "old news," but Democrats say the report destroys the administration's case for going to war. The report also raises questions about the role of former CIA director George Tenet in making the case for war.
Release of the committee's report comes more than two and a half years after Democrats on the panel demanded a probe into the use or abuse of intelligence leading up to the Iraq war. Only the first two parts of that probe are in today's report. The most explosive elements of the findings compare pre- Iraq war intelligence with what was learned later.
No Republicans who serve on the committee were on hand to comment on the findings. But the panel's Democratic vice chairman, Jay Rockefeller, declared on the Senate floor that the document shows the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq "exploited a deep sense of insecurity" Americans felt following the 9-11 attacks.
"The administration, in its zeal to promote public opinion in the United States for toppling Saddam Hussein, pursued a deceptive strategy prior to the war of using intelligence" that was either unreliable, inaccurate or fabricated, the Sen. Rockefeller said.
Fellow Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan said that despite evidence to the contrary, President Bush last month continued to insist that Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the recently killed leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.
The report cites other intelligence reports from both before and after the war that raised serious doubts about Iraq's ties to al-Qaida. It also relates how former CIA director George Tenet issued a statement that bolstered the case for war just before Congress voted on authorizing the use of force in Iraq — even though the CIA had found unlikely the administration's claim that Saddam Hussein planned to use weapons of mass destruction.
White House spokesman Tony Snow dismissed the report, saying, "We'll let people quibble over three years ago."
"The important thing to do," Snow said, "is to figure out what you're doing tomorrow and the day after and the month after and the year after to make sure that this war on terror is won."