Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has strongly denied the Bush Administration
manipulated intelligence on Iraq'sweapons of mass destruction program to bolster
its case for military action to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Speaking out in public for the first time since former chief weapons inspector
David Kay acknowledged U.S. intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs was apparently
wrong, Mr. Rumsfeld has delivered a strong defense of the Bush administration's
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the defense secretary
says that despite Mr. Kay's concession, he is not yet ready to acknowledge
that Saddam Hussein did not have chemical or biological weapons.
He says that has yet to be proven conclusively.
"What we have learned thus far has not proven that Saddam Hussein had what
intelligence indicated and what we believed he had," said Mr. Rumsfeld. "But
it has also not proven the opposite."
Mr. Rumsfeld then went on to deny there was any manipulation of the intelligence
by the Bush administration to justify military operations against Iraq.
"I haven't heard of it. I haven't seen any of it," he emphasized.
Mr. Rumsfeld says there are a number of possible theories about what happened
to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, that they were transferred to other
countries, that they were hidden around Iraq, that they were destroyed or that
their existence was a calculated charade by Saddam or his scientists.
But he says the theory that Iraq had none is not likely. And whatever the
case, he says President Bush made the right decision to invade Iraq.
"I'm convinced that the President of the United States did the right thing
in Iraq, let there be no doubt," he said.
Nevertheless, there was criticism of the administration's actions, especially
from Democratic legislators, including Senator Edward Kennedy.
He voices concern that the administration's plans to investigate intelligence
failures in Iraq will be aimed at blaming intelligence analysts and not policy
"I think the White House agenda is clear is to blame the failure of the administration's
case for war on the intelligence community rather than the administration's
manipulations and misrepresentations of the available intelligence," said Senator
Other members of Congress have voiced similar concerns.
The investigation ordered by President Bush is expected to take more than
a year to complete. Its findings are not therefore likely to be known until
after this November's presidential election.