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Monday, February 2

Questions loom about Iraq probe

By John Yaukey | GNS

President Bush's announcement Monday that he will launch an independent investigation into pre-war intelligence on Iraq has raised questions among Democrats about how far the probe will go and when it will start.

With the election looming, both are politically charged issues.

Bush conceded to bipartisan calls for an independent probe after David Kay, the administration's former chief weapons hunter in Iraq, told lawmakers that he doubted Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in large quantities before the war started in March.

Bush is expected to announce more details on the independent commission later this week.

``Before I move forward with the commission, I want to sit down with Mr. Kay,'' Bush said Monday, also noting that Saddam ``had the intent and the capabilities to cause great harm.''

Some Democrats fear the probe will be limited primarily to the CIA's apparent mistakes and will not delve deeply into the administration's use of the intelligence.

Some analysts, including former CIA analyst Ken Pollack, believe there is evidence that some members of the Bush administration ``cherry-picked'' intelligence that supported the view that Saddam had an extensive arsenal of mass-destruction weapons.

``It sounds as if the president is going to call for (a probe) where he gets to appoint each of the members and dictate the design and ultimately the circumstances under which they do their work,'' said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

Timing is also a critical issue.

Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., a senior member of the Senate intelligence committee, has called for the probe to start sooner rather than later, potentially coinciding with the election cycle.

Rockefeller also has called for expanding the Senate probe into the pre-war intelligence on Iraq. That investigation is wrapping up, with the Senate intelligence committee preparing to circulate draft findings to members this week and a report to the public sometime in the spring.

"Dr. Kay's conclusions make it clear that our committee review must be significantly expanded on a number of fronts,'' Rockefeller said. ``Our review has largely focused on the quality of the intelligence community's judgments and not the problems that resulted from limited intelligence collection.

``And, as I've said for six months, the committee must look into whether the administration exaggerated and misused intelligence to make its case for going to war. Our review will not be complete unless we answer all questions relating to this intelligence failure."

Republicans on the intelligence committee have accused the Democratic committee leadership of trying to politicize the investigation of the pre-war intelligence on Iraq in a way that would embarrass Bush going into the election.

The accusation was based on a strategy memo by the Democratic staff of the intelligence committee made public in the fall.