WASHINGTON As recently as January 2004, a top Defense Department official
misrepresented to Congress the view of American intelligence agencies about
the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, according to classified
documents described in a new report by a Senate Democrat.
The report said that a classified document prepared by Douglas Feith, the
undersecretary of defense for policy, did not accurately reflect the
intelligence agencies' assessment of the relationship, despite a Pentagon
claim that it did.
In issuing the report, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on
the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that he would ask the panel to
take "appropriate action" against Feith. Levin described the Jan. 15
communication from Feith as part of a pattern in which the Defense
Department official, in briefings for Congress and the White House,
repeatedly described the ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda as far more
significant and extensive than the intelligence agencies had assessed.
The broad outlines of the role played by Feith as a champion of the view
that Iraq and Al Qaeda were closely linked have been disclosed previously.
The view, a staple of the Bush administration's public statements before
the Iraq invasion in March 2003, has since been discredited by the Sept. 11
commission, which concluded that Iraq and Al Qaeda had "no close
Bush administration officials have defended Feith's prewar efforts as
reflecting a legitimate effort to develop an alternative analysis of the
relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda. But the report by Levin includes
new details showing that Feith's accounts to the White House and Congress
through early 2004 deviated from the intelligence agencies' assessments to
a degree that the Pentagon official did not acknowledge.
The 46-page report by Levin and the Democratic staff of the Armed Services
Committee is the first to focus narrowly on the role played by Feith's
office. Democrats had sought to include that line of inquiry in a report
completed in June by the Senate Intelligence Committee, but Republicans on
that panel succeeded in an effort to postpone that phase of the study until
after the presidential election.
In an interview, Levin said that he had concluded that Feith had practiced
a "continuing deception of Congress." But he said he had no evidence that
Feith's conduct had been illegal in any way