Daily Breeze

June 04, 2003

Harman questions weapons intelligence

By TOBY ECKERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON — The lack of significant evidence of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Iraq “is of great concern,” South Bay Rep. Jane Harman said this week, joining a growing number of lawmakers raising questions about the main argument used by the Bush administration to justify the war.

Harman, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, recently co-signed a letter to CIA Director George Tenet that raised several questions about the quality and quantity of intelligence and analysis regarding Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., also signed the letter.

The committee “believes that it is now time to re-evaluate U.S. intelligence regarding the amount or existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that country’s linkages to terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The committee wants to ensure that the intelligence analysis relayed to our policymakers from the intelligence community was accurate, unbiased, and timely — in light of new information resulting from recent events in Iraq.”

Tenet was asked to provide answers by July 1.

Some top congressional lawmakers have called for hearings on the issue.

Harman, D-El Segundo, has said the intelligence information lawmakers were given helped sway her vote to support the war against Iraq.

In an interview, Harman said she believes Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed such weapons.

“The working hypothesis has to be that we will find evidence of these weapons, conceivably evidence that they were destroyed. But it’s counterintuitive that he would have destroyed these weapons and not disclosed that as troops were massing on his border,” she said.

Other possibilities are that the weapons were spirited to a neighboring country or remain hidden in Iraq, she said.

“I want a thorough probing of all this. I think U.S. credibility is at stake and I think (President Bush’s) whole doctrine of preemption . . . is premised on a notion that the intelligence about what someone intends to do is accurate,” she said.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, she said, “This conceivably could be the greatest intelligence hoax of all time.”

Harman rejected some of the evidence Bush and other administration officials have cited to date to support their claims that Iraq possessed large quantities of forbidden weapons.

“I do not believe that finding two mobile labs that may have been used for biological weapons is adequate proof of the claims made prior to the war,” she said.

Any hearings on the matter should be conducted behind closed doors, Harman added.

“We had in mind a classified hearing because, obviously, (intelligence) sources and methods are part of the conversation we’d like to have,” she said.

In Britain, the United States’ most prominent ally in the war, a parliamentary committee announced it would hold similar hearings, likely in public.