But immediately after the terrorist attacks on 9-11, which the Bush administration has said Iraq is partially responsible for, the President and his advisers were already making a case for war against Iraq without so much as providing a shred of evidence to back up their allegations that Iraq and its former President, Saddam Hussein, helped al-Qaida hijackers plan the catastrophe.
It was then, after the 9-11 attacks, that intelligence reports from the CIA radically changed from previous months, which said Iraq posed no immediate threat to the U.S., to now show Iraq had a stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and was in hot pursuit of a nuclear bomb. The Bush administration seized upon the reports to build public support for the war and used the information to eventually justify a preemptive strike against the country last March.
Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are now investigating whether the intelligence information gathered by the CIA was accurate or whether the Bush administration manipulated and or exaggerated the intelligence to make a case for war.
In just seven short months, beginning as early as February 2001, Bush administration officials said Iraq went from being a threat only to its own people to posing an imminent threat to the world. Indeed, in a Feb. 12, 2001 interview with the Fox News Channel Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said: "Iraq is probably not a nuclear threat at the present time. "
But Rumsfeld testified before the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 18, 2002 that Iraq is close to acquiring the materials needed to build a nuclear bomb.
"Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent -- that Saddam is at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons, " Rumsfeld testified before the committee .
"I would not be so certain ... He has, at this moment, stockpiles chemical and biological weapons, and is pursuing nuclear weapons. "
Rumsfeld never offered any evidence to support his claims, but his dire warnings of a nuclear catastrophe caused by Saddam Hussein was enough to convince most lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, that Saddam 's Iraq was doomed. Shortly after his remarks before the House Armed Services Committee, Congress passed a resolution authorizing President Bush to use "all appropriate means " to remove Saddam from power.
However, intelligence reports released by the CIA in 2001 and 2002 and more than 100 interviews top officials in the Bush administration, such as Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, gave to various Senate and Congressional committees and media outlets prior to 9-11 show that the U.S. never believed Saddam Hussein to be an imminent threat other than to his own people.
Moreover, the CIA reported in February 2001 that Iraq was "probably " pursuing chemical and biological weapons programs but that it had no direct evidence that Iraq actually had actually obtained such weapons.
"We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since (Operation) Desert Fox to reconstitute its WMD programs, although given its past behavior, this type of activity must be regarded as likely, " CIA director Tenet said in a agency report to Congress on Feb 7, 2001.
"We assess that since the suspension of (United Nations) inspections in December of 1998, Baghdad has had the capability to reinitiate both its (chemical and biological weapons) programs ... without an inspection monitoring program, however, it is more difficult to determine if Iraq has done so. "
"Moreover, the automated video monitoring systems installed by the UN at known and suspect WMD facilities in Iraq are still not operating, " according to the 2001 CIA report. "Having lost this on-the-ground access, it is more difficult for the UN or the US to accurately assess the current state of Iraq 's WMD programs. "
Ironically, in the February 2001 report, Tenet said Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network remain the single greatest threat to U.S. interests here and abroad. Tenet eerily describes in the report a scenario that six months later would become a reality.
"Terrorists are also becoming more operationally adept and more technically sophisticated in order to defeat counter-terrorism measures. For example, as we have increased security around government and military facilities, terrorists are seeking out "softer" targets that provide opportunities for mass casualties. Employing increasingly advanced devices and using strategies such as simultaneous attacks, the number of people killed ... Usama bin Ladin and his global network of lieutenants and associates remain the most immediate and serious threat. Since 1998, Bin Ladin has declared all U.S. citizens legitimate targets of attack. As shown by the bombing of our embassies in Africa in 1998 and his Millennium plots last year, he is capable of planning multiple attacks with little or no warning, " Tenet said.
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