November 17, 2005

Pentagon agrees to probe Feith’s role in Iraq intel

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon's inspector general has
agreed to review the prewar intelligence activities of former
U.S. defense undersecretary Douglas Feith, a main architect of
the Iraq war, congressional officials said on Thursday.

News of the Defense Department probe comes at a time of
bitter political debate over whether President George W. Bush
misled the American people with prewar intelligence. The
increasingly biter dispute has pitted the president and his top
advisers against lawmakers including some from Bush's own
Republican Party.

Democrats have accused Feith of manipulating information
from sources including discredited Iraqi politician Ahmad
Chalabi to suggest links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin
Laden's al Qaeda network, which masterminded the September 11,
2001, attacks.

Bush and other top administration officials cited alleged
ties between Iraq and al Qaeda as a justification for military
action. But the September 11 commission later reported that no
collaborative relationship existed between the two.

The inspector general's office informed the Senate on
October 19 that it would undertake a review after receiving
separate requests from the Republican chairman of the Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence and the ranking Democrat on
the Senate Committee on Armed Services, officials said.

Congressional officials expect the review to look at
whether Feith and his staff bypassed the CIA by giving the
White House uncorroborated intelligence that sought to make a
case for war in the months leading up to the 2003 Iraq

Feith, who was the Pentagon's policy chief until he left
the Defense Department for the private sector earlier this
year, was not immediately available for comment.

Officials said the Pentagon's inspector general told the
Senate its review would begin sometime in November. One
official estimated the probe could take at least six months.

"We're going to try to expedite it as much as possible,"
said Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the Senate
intelligence panel chairman who asked the inspector general on
September 9 for a review of Feith's Office of Special Plans.

"The IG knows we are very eager to get this done but he
wants to get it done right," he told Reuters.

Roberts said his request had been incorporated with a later
one from Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, who asked
acting Defense Department Inspector General Tom Gimble in a
September 22 letter for a broad probe encompassing all elements
of Feith's Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said in an
e-mail on Thursday that the inspector general's office was
still discussing the requests with committee staff.

Defense officials have defended Feith, saying no credible
evidence of wrongdoing by him or his staff has ever been
discovered. They also say Democratic lawmakers never responded
to a Pentagon challenge to produce incriminating evidence.

A copy of Levin's letter to Gimble, which was obtained by
Reuters, asks the inspector general to consider 10 questions
including whether Feith's office undercut the intelligence
community by providing the White House with its own analysis
that went beyond the scope of the underlying intelligence.

Levin also wants the inspector general to look into whether
Feith misled Congress in January 2004 by providing oversight
committees with reports dealing with the credibility of prewar
intelligence on Iraq.

Roberts' office declined to provide a copy of his written
request to the inspector general.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll this week said 63 percent of
Americans oppose Bush's handling of the Iraq war, and 52
percent say troops should be pulled out now or within 12