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Senators: No new Iraq intelligence in Rumsfeld meeting

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met behind closed doors with senators Wednesday afternoon but provided no new intelligence information about a possible strike on Iraq, according to several participants in the session.

A number of senators, both Democrats and Republicans, said Rumsfeld made it clear at the beginning of the session that he had no intention of giving new intelligence information.

Speaking briefly to CNN on his way out of the Capitol, Rumsfeld said the session was a regular briefing on the overall war on terrorism. He said the session had been scheduled for several weeks -- well before President Bush's public pledge to seek passage of a congressional resolution of support before striking Iraq.

The defense chief did not stop to answer reporters' questions before leaving Capitol Hill.

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"There was nothing new added today," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, on CNN's "Wolf Blitzer Reports." "Specifically, when asked whether there was any new information about any of Saddam's efforts in the last 30 days since we had the last briefing, the secretary said he didn't know of anything new since we were here in July."

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, said that some senators thought Rumsfeld would be more forthcoming with information about the threat posed by Iraq but "he did not provide an intelligence briefing." Rumsfeld told senators that CIA Director George Tenant would probably be the official to provide specific intelligence information about Iraq, Santorum said.

One Democratic senator told CNN, "There was a lot of frustration in that room" because Rumsfeld wasn't supplying more details. The senator added that "there was an expectation that we would get more information." Some senators even got up and left, this senator said.

Another Democratic senator said those at the briefing heard nothing new, "nothing that you haven't seen in the media."

However, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who does not believe Bush has yet made a case for military action and would oppose a strike without more information, said the fact that Rumsfeld did not answer the questions he has about Iraq's threat "doesn't bother me." Craig said he expects Bush himself to make the case soon for possible military action.

And Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, said Wednesday's session was "clarifying."

--CNN Producer Dana Bash contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 


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