November 8, 2005

Senate asks Pentagon to probe Feith role on Iraq

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon's inspector general has
been asked to investigate the prewar intelligence role of a
planning office headed by former U.S. defense policy chief
Douglas Feith, a main architect of the Iraq war, officials said
on Tuesday.

The request was made by the Senate Select Committee on
Intelligence in a letter sent in August.

It said the Defense Department should determine whether
Feith and his Office of Special Plans wielded excessive
influence over intelligence that claimed Saddam Hussein
possessed weapons of mass destruction.

The threat of such weapons, which have never been found in
Iraq, was cited as a main justification for President George W.
Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003.

A Defense Department spokesman said it had not yet decided
whether to undertake the investigation.

Democrats have put pressure on the Republicans who control
Congress to speed up an investigation of whether the Bush
administration twisted or misused intelligence in the run-up to
the war, which was strongly supported by several top Pentagon
officials including Feith.

Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Republican chairman of the
Senate intelligence committee, asked the Pentagon's inspector
general to look into the activities of Feith's office after
officials stopped cooperating with a Senate probe of prewar
intelligence on Iraq.

Republicans blame the slackening in Pentagon cooperation on
public suggestions by Democrats that Feith's office could be
guilty of illegal activities.

"This is in response to problems we had getting them to
testify. To get a good look at the situation, (the committee)
asked the IG to look into it," Roberts spokeswoman Sarah Ross
Little said.

However, Democrats on the committee including the vice
chairman, Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia, opposed
Roberts' action and warned the move could delay the Senate
investigation of Feith's office by up to a year.


The Senate committee, which produced a scathing report on
U.S. prewar intelligence in July 2004, is due to examine the
Office of Special Plans as part of a second-phase probe into
how Bush administration officials used intelligence on Iraq
while making their case for war.

"In no way does the vice chairman believe the IG's
investigation should be a substitute for the committee's work.
The committee agreed to look at this and it needs to fulfill

its commitment," said Rockefeller spokeswoman Wendy Morigi.

She said Rockefeller was not aware of Roberts' request to
the inspector general until after the letter had been sent.

Feith was not available for comment.

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said the
inspector general's office had not decided whether to proceed
with the Senate's request.

"My understanding is that they have a request from
(Capitol) Hill to look at this, but that the IG's office is
still evaluating that request," Whitman said in an e-mail
responding to queries from Reuters.

Critics including Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, ranking
Democrat on the Senate Committee on Armed Services and a
leading member of the intelligence panel, have accused Feith of
using the Office of Special Plans to manipulate information to
support the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Some lawmakers also believe Feith bypassed the CIA to
provide uncorroborated intelligence directly to the White
House, including information from Ahmad Chalabi, the
discredited Iraqi politician and former exile leader who is
visiting Washington this week.

Feith, who left the Pentagon earlier this year, has also
been blamed for overseeing what is widely considered to have
been inadequate postwar planning in Iraq, which is now gripped
by a bloody insurgency.