Congress to Look into WMD Claims
Aired June 17, 2003 - 08:03 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, ANCHOR: The Bush administration under increasing pressure over its prewar claims that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Some Democrats now calling for hearing to review those claims and do it publicly in some cases.
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SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: There's troubling evidence that intelligence was shaded and exaggerated and that evidence ought to be reviewed on a bipartisan basis in a thorough way.
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HEMMER: President Bush yesterday denounced critics of the administration's Iraq policies.
John King live on the front lawn to tell us and take us through the White House's position today. John, good morning.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Bill.
The White House flatly rejects the assertion just made there by Senator Levin that the intelligence was somehow shaded or exaggerated.
But one of the things key senators want to do is take the president's statements in the days and weeks leading up to war with Iraq, set them on the table and then set next to them the actual reports from intelligence analysts, to see if the president did, in fact, hype the intelligence just a bit.
So let's for a moment revisit two of the many statements the president made in the lead-up to the war. This one is from September 26, 2002. The president meeting with congressional leaders and the president said, quote, "The danger to our country is grave. The danger to our country is growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons. The Iraqi regime is building the facilities necessary to make more biological and chemical weapons."
Six months later, as the president took the nation into war, he said this to the American people, quote, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons every devised."
Now after the war, many are asking if the president was so certain about those weapons, where are they? How come U.S. teams have not been able to find them inside Iraq? The White House says it will cooperate with any inquiry in Congress, but the president, if you listen to him, it seems he thinks this is a big waste of time.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now there are some who would like to rewrite history. Revisionist historians is what I like to call them. Saddam Hussein was a threat to America and the free world in '91, in '98, in 2003. He continually ignored the demands of the free world so the United States and friends and allies acted.
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KING: Now still a debate on Capitol Hill as to how much of this inquiry will be open to the public. It is a sensitive issue, of course, because so much of the intelligence is classified. So many of those analysts are unknown faces that are behind the scenes on purpose so that they are not known to governments around the world. That is part of the ongoing debate.
And as all this plays out, Bill, again, the White House says it will fully cooperate. It is clear the president is bristling at the criticism. And for all the political heat, it seems to pale in comparison compared to the very tough, pointed inquiry that British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing in his parliament -- Bill.
HEMMER: John, let me try and get some clarification on this. Three-hundred-and-thirty sites, that's the number that we believe have been visited throughout the country in Iraq. This new team on the ground, about 1,400 strong. They will start their work in July.
How will their work be different in July as opposed to the previous work that's been done already in Iraq?
KING: Well, it's similar in many degrees in that they're out hunting. But it is different in the sense that the administration is hoping to gain more intelligence from Iraqi scientists, from Iraqi government workers. as they are interviewed.
There's also a new focus now, this whole task has been turned over to the CIA, the lead agency will be the CIA and the CIA director George Tenet. He's brought in a former weapons inspector in Iraq, David Kay (ph), to lead up the effort. So in some ways it is the same. You're out there hunting. In other ways, the administration is hoping that it has more focus and that it finds more evidence, because it has more information to build on.
But that is one of the open questions and again, many asking here in Washington, if the president was so certain, where are the weapons?
HEMMER: An open question, indeed. John King from the White House.
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