MICHELE NORRIS, host:
For more now on the report's findings and how it's likely to play out this election season, we turn to NPR's intelligence correspondent, Mary Louise Kelly. She's seen the four pages released late today from that 30 page intelligence document. The rest of that document remains classified.
MARY LOUISE KELLY: What we have is broad, general conclusions about the war on terror. A few of the key quotes which we could single out. “The judgment of the U.S. intelligence community is that al-Qaida continues to pose the greatest threat to U.S. interests from any single terror organization.”
More directly on this question, which has been very controversial of the impact of the Iraq war on the war on terror the document says, and I quote, “we assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives.” It also says one page later “al-Qaida, now merged with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's network, is exploiting the situation in Iraq to attract new recruits and donors and to maintain its leadership role.”
So that's where they're weighing in. Nothing quite as direct as what we've heard in leaks from officials familiar with the document who may be referring to a quote perhaps in the wider body of the report. But the very controversial statement that has been that the war in Iraq has actually worsened the situation in the broader war on terror.
NORRIS: So just four pages of a 30 page document, but the details that are spelled out in those four pages, is that likely to fan this controversy?
KELLY: You know, I suspect what will fan this controversy at this point is the fact that we are only seeing four pages. I mean, the president and National Intelligence Director Negroponte over the last couple of days have been very heated in defending their work, in defending their record and saying look, critics who are slamming us because they say we are not speaking in line with the document, with this NIE that U.S. intelligence has produced, are not seeing the full picture. They're not speaking with the benefit of having seen the document.
Well, if this was meant to answer that I don't see that it does because we still don't have the benefit of the full picture, the full document. We're reading four pages out of 30 and none of the details are intelligence which lead U.S. officials to come to these conclusions.
NORRIS: Four pages, I see one of the headings there, Key Judgments. So is that, this is sort of the executive summary?
KELLY: This is the summary section. Exactly. The conclusion section. And, you know, I was on Capitol Hill today right after we got word that President Bush said he had directed Negroponte to release this document, and a number of Democrats were very outspoken in saying if you're going to release it, do the full deal. Let's see the full document.
We heard from Carl Levin, who is the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee and also one of the few members of Congress who's actually seen this report, and he was saying at a minimum, if you're not going to declassify the entire report, let's at least do the sections of the report that deal specifically with Iraq and the war on terror. Because he says, and as I say he has the benefit of actually having read the whole thing, that beyond the findings, beyond this conclusion section, there is important stuff in the body of the report.
NORRIS: And just quickly, Mary Louise, the president said he had serious misgivings about releasing, at least even these four pages. Any precedent for this?
KELLY: There have been a number of NIEs declassified over the years. Hundreds of them. But almost all of them are no longer current. We've seen a lot of documents declassified about say, the former Soviet Union. The only precedent we have of a current NIE being declassified was the notorious 2002 NIE on Iraq. That was declassified but it was heavily redacted. We only saw about a third of the pages. The rest was blacked out.
NORRIS: Mary Louise, thanks so much.
KELLY: You're welcome.
NORRIS: NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, our national intelligence correspondent.
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