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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
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President Bush today released a small portion of a classified intelligence document that had been leaked to three newspapers over the weekend. Those news reports described a conclusion by the nation's intelligence agencies that the Iraq War has actually increased the threat of global terrorism. Three papers reported on that assessment, citing anonymous sources who'd seen the report.
In response, President Bush ordered the director of nation intelligence, John Negroponte, to declassify what the called the key findings of the report. Negroponte did so this afternoon, making about ten percent of the document available to the public.
Questions about the report and the eventual decision to release some of it overshadowed the president's meeting with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai. He said his country was grateful for U.S. support.
NPR's Don Gonyea reports from the White House.
DON GONYEA: The president's surprise announcement that some of the so-called national intelligence estimate, or NIE, would be declassified came during a White House news conference with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, who is in Washington for two meetings in as many days with Mr. Bush.
When they entered the East Room following their session in the Oval Office, the White House knew reporters would be asking about the intelligence estimate. This was the first time the president was available to the press corps since the stories about the NIE appeared in the weekend newspapers.
The first question came from an Associated Press reporter who asked why the president continues to say the war in Iraq has made the country safer when one of the major conclusions of the NIE was the Iraq War has fueled terror growth around the world. Mr. Bush rejected the premise of the question, saying those who wrote about the intelligence report had not seen the document itself and that the full intelligence document tells a more complete story.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Some people have, you know, guessed what's in the report and have concluded that going into Iraq was a mistake. I strongly disagree. I think it's naïve. I think it's a mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm to the American people makes us less safe.
GONYEA: In answering, the president showed flashes of anger. He questioned the timing of the leak of classified information, citing the upcoming midterm election.
President BUSH: And here we are, coming down the stretch of an election campaign and it's on the front page of your newspapers. Isn't that interesting? Somebody's taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes.
GONYEA: Then, after calling it, quote, “a bad habit for the government to declassify documents when there's a leak,” that's when the president said that in this case he's doing just that, though only a few pages were ultimately made available some five hours later.
The released portion does say Iraq has become a, quote, “cause celebre for Jihadists,” but it also says if they return to their home countries discouraged, then there could be fewer fighters inspired to carry on.
As for why so little of the total document was released, the White House says the director of national intelligence made that decision. The president's homeland security advisor added that while only a small percentage of the full report was released, that 95 percent of the key findings were.
White House critics won't likely be satisfied that the administration is telling the full story here, but the White House seems intent on releasing just enough to blunt the political damage that the news reports of the weekend and the subsequent follow up coverage have done to its case for staying the course in Iraq.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, the White House.
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