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Did Administration Exaggerate Weapons Claims in Iraq?
Aired June 2, 2003 - 20:16 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Nearly two months after the fall of Baghdad, the U.S.-led search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction has produced no weapons. Plenty of embarrassment, certainly, to the Bush administration. The controversy raised questions about whether the administration exaggerated its claims to win support for the war.
Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre joins with us from Washington. Good evening, Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Anderson.
Well, new search teams are being dispatched to Iraq this week to focus more on the people and perhaps the documents that would lead the United States to find those banned weapons, instead of relying so much on the prewar intelligence about where they may have been hidden. That prewar intelligence has come under more and more scrutiny lately, as it's failed to produce any weapons of mass destruction.
And the Pentagon is increasingly under fire under the accusation that it either overstated or perhaps even misrepresented the evidence before the war.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): Colin Powell says his presentation to the United Nations February 5 followed three straight days of preparation, during which he grilled CIA analysts late into the night about the quality of U.S. intelligence. In Rome, Powell says he still stands by that report.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: There were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It wasn't a figment of anyone's imagination.
MCINTYRE: But an administration official tells CNN Powell did have doubts about evidence linking Iraq to al Qaeda, and included the reference only after being persuaded by the White House.
The failure of the U.S. to find any banned weapons so far has some in Congress calling for hearings into whether the case against Iraq was overstated, or even intentionally inflated.
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: After all the facts are in, it looks as if the intelligence was simply wrong. I think we need to do two things. First, get to the bottom of why errors in judgment were made. And secondly, I think there will be a heightened level of skepticism.
MCINTYRE: A CNN-"USA Today" Gallup poll shows for now, two- thirds of Americans seem willing to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt. Asked whether the Bush administration deliberately misled the American public about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, 31 said yes, it deliberately misled, but 67 percent said no, it did not.
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing a more skeptical public and criticism from within his own party.
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The idea that Saddam Hussein has for 12 years been obstructing the U.N. weapons inspectors, has been engaged in this huge battle with international community, when all the way along he'd actually destroyed these weapons, is completely absurd.
MCINTYRE: So, where are the weapons? It is clear intelligence indicating they were deployed on the battlefield was wrong. Some administration officials are saying instead that in an effort to ride out U.N. inspections, Saddam Hussein might have destroyed any large stockpiles and hidden production capability inside dual-use commercial facilities.
MCINTYRE: Pentagon officials continue to insist that just because they haven't found weapons of mass destruction doesn't mean they aren't there. After all, one could say, they haven't found Saddam Hussein either, but nobody is suggesting that he wasn't really there before the war, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thanks very much.
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