White House defends Bush's post-invasion WMD claims
Group found Iraqi trailers to be non-WMD related, paper says
The White House Wednesday said the intelligence community still backed the WMD claims when Bush made them.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House on Wednesday reacted angrily to a report that President Bush had cited trailers suspected as biological weapons labs as proof of the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after intelligence officials knew that the trailers were not part of a WMD program.
"The reporting I saw this morning was simply reckless and it was irresponsible," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "The lead in The Washington Post left this impression for the reader that the president was saying something he knew at the time not to be true. That is absolutely false, and it is irresponsible."
The article said Bush's comments on May 29, 2003 -- in which he said that two trailers had been found in Iraq that were mobile biological laboratories -- were made despite a May 27 report from a Pentagon-sponsored mission that concluded the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. (Watch what the trailers really held -- 1:58)
McClellan said the president was basing his remarks on an intelligence assessment provided by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency on May 28, which said that "coalition forces have uncovered the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program."
The CIA-DIA report said that Kurdish and U.S. forces had found at least two mobile facilities in late April and early May 2003 near Mosul.
"The design, equipment, and layout of the trailer found in late April is strikingly similar to descriptions provided by a source who was a chemical engineer that managed one of the mobile plants," the report said.
"Secretary of State [Colin] Powell's description of the mobile plants in his speech in February 2003 to the United Nations ... was based primarily on reporting from this source," it added.
McClellan said the rehashing of the information is old news.
"I cannot count how many times the president has said the intelligence was wrong. The Robb-Silberman commission, which was the independent bipartisan commission that looked into this intelligence, said that the intelligence community's assessment of Iraq's biological weapons programs was almost entirely wrong," he said in Wednesday's White House briefing.
McClellan said the administration has implemented reforms to make sure that "the executive branch and the Congress have the best possible intelligence as they move forward to deal with the threats that face this country and face this world."
Intelligence about the mobile biological weapons labs came mainly from a source whose code name was "Curveball."
That information was shared with U.S. intelligence officials and was subsequently used by then-Secretary of State Powell as evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
A report last year from the Robb-Silberman commission said some senior CIA officials had begun having doubts about Curveball's credibility in 2002 and took their concerns to senior managers -- and eventually to former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and his deputy, John McLaughlin.
The information remained in Powell's U.N. presentation.
The report outlines a meeting in early autumn 2002 between a CIA division chief and a representative of the foreign intelligence service who debriefed Curveball. The division chief said the foreign officer told him Curveball "was crazy ... had had a nervous breakdown and was a fabricator."
According to the division chief, he passed the information to senior managers.
The report cites a meeting in January 2003 when the division chief allegedly told McLaughlin that Curveball was a fabricator.
In April 2005, McLaughlin said he has "absolutely no recall of such a discussion. None."
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