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Report on Bush use of faulty WMD data draws fire
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — New questions surfaced Wednesday about President Bush's contention three years ago that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq.
The Washington Post reported that a Pentagon-sponsored team of experts determined in May 2003 that two small trailers were not used to make biological weapons. Yet Bush declared the opposite two days after the team submitted its findings in a classified report.
"We have found the weapons of mass destruction," Bush told a Polish TV station. "We found biological laboratories."
Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday that Bush was relying on information from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency when he said the trailers seized after the 2003 invasion were mobile biological laboratories. The Iraq Survey Group in 2004 discredited that information, saying there was no evidence that Iraq produced weapons of mass destruction after 1991.
The CIA and DIA publicly issued an assessment one day after the Pentagon team's report arrived in Washington that said the mobile facilities represented "the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program."
McClellan said it was unclear whether White House officials were aware of the contradictory field report when Bush repeated the claim.
"If and when the White House became aware of this particular issue, I'm looking into that matter," McClellan said. "The White House has asked the CIA and the DIA to go and look into that issue."
The Post did not say Bush knew what he was saying was false. But ABC News did during a report on "Good Morning America," and McClellan demanded an apology and an on-air retraction. ABC News said later in a clarification on its Web site that Charles Gibson had erred. McClellan said he had received an apology.
"This is nothing more than rehashing an old issue that was resolved long ago," McClellan said. "I cannot count how many times the president has said the intelligence was wrong."
"The intelligence community makes the assessment," he said. "The White House is not the intelligence-gathering agency."
CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Dyck declined to speak specifically about the classified field report but said in general that producing a finished intelligence report takes time, coordination, debate and vetting.
"This is not a fast process, especially when dealing with complex issues," she said. "It is not typically something that happens in a matter of hours."
The trailers — along with aluminum tubes acquired by Iraq for what was believed to be a nuclear-weapons program — were primary pieces of evidence offered by the Bush administration before the war to support its contention that Iraq was making weapons of mass destruction.
U.S. soldiers die: Four American soldiers were killed in roadside bombings south and east of Baghdad, the military said. The U.S. death toll for April surpassed the total for all of March, and the total for the war reached at least 2,364.
Iraqi deaths: More than 40 Iraqis also died, including at least 22 in a car bombing near a Shiite mosque northeast of Baghdad.
Iraq politics: Parliament Speaker Adnan Pachachi said he would call parliament into session Monday to push efforts to form a new government, snarled for weeks over who will serve as prime minister.
Saddam case: The trial of Saddam Hussein adjourned after five minutes Wednesday when handwriting experts failed to appear for testimony.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company