Senate asks Pentagon to probe Feith role on Iraq

Nov 8, 2005 — 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.

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