President Bush is setting up an independent investigation to look at intelligence
gathered prior to the Iraq war, specifically, assertions that Saddam Hussein
had amassed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. The announcement came
shortly before Mr. Bush met at the White House with the former chief U.S. weapons
inspector in Iraq, David Kay.
President Bush indicates he is approving a commission with a broad mandate:
to look at all intelligence gathering related to weapons of mass destruction.
Until just a few days ago, the White House resisted the idea of an independent
inquiry. But the president now acknowledges one is necessary, saying he wants
to get all the facts. "And so I'm putting together an independent, bipartisan
commission to analyze where we stand and what we can do better as we fight
this war again terror," said Mr. Bush.
The notion of an independent investigation of pre-war intelligence gained
momentum last week when David Kay testified before members of congress.
Mr. Kay, who resigned last month as chief U.S. weapons inspector, said it
is unlikely that large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction will ever
be found, saying everyone was misled by faulty information from the intelligence
President Bush has said the search for weapons must go on while the investigation
of intelligence takes place. Speaking to reporters at the end of a meeting
with his cabinet, he made clear that no matter what is found or not found in
Iraq, he believes the war was justified. "We do know that Saddam Hussein had
the intent and the capabilities to cause great harm. We know he was a danger," he
The president said he wanted to talk to David Kay before formally launching
the commission, and two hours later, he did just that.
The two had a private meeting over lunch at the White House. Mr. Kay left
without making any public comments. The only information on the session came
from presidential spokesman Mark McClellan. "This is an opportunity for the
president to hear directly from Dr. Kay and hear what he has learned as the
former head of the Iraq survey group," he said.
President Bush is expected to formally announce the make-up of the independent
commission soon. By establishing the panel by executive order, rather than
through an act of congress, he will give the White House greater say over its
composition and the timetable for its work.
Administration officials indicate the president will name a team of experts
familiar with intelligence gathering procedures, including some who held top
government posts in the past.