President Bush and Vice President Cheney knowingly lied to Congress and the public about the threat Iraq posed to the United States in the months leading up to the invasion of the country in March 2003, according to a long-awaited report released Thursday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Separately, a second report said former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld set up an intelligence office within the Defense Department known as the Office of Special Plans “without the knowledge of the Intelligence Community or the State Department” to promote alleged links between Iraq and al-Qaeda and cooked intelligence about Iraq’s weapons cache.
Douglas Feith, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and a main architect of the Iraq war headed the Office of Special Plans.
“Before taking the country to war, this administration owed it to the American people to give them a 100 percent accurate picture of the threat we faced. Unfortunately, our Committee has concluded that the administration made significant claims that were not supported by the intelligence,” said committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, D- W. Va.
The Senate report is the first document to state that Bush and Cheney knowingly made false allegations about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator who was executed in December 2006.
“There is no question we all relied on flawed intelligence. But, there is a fundamental difference between relying on incorrect intelligence and deliberately painting a picture to the American people that you know is not fully accurate,” Rockefeller said in a statement.
The Senate confirms British intelligence assertions that surfaced in a document widely referred to as the Downing Street Memo that the facts against the threat posed by Iraq were being fixed around the Bush administration’s policy leading up to the invasion of Iraq.
The Senate report singled out erroneous statements Cheney made during the run up to the invasion that the vice president knew was not supported by the available intelligence such as allegations that Mohammed Atta, the lead Sept. 11 met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001.
John Dean, the former counsel to President Richard Nixon, made a case for impeaching Bush if he intentionally misled Congress and the public into backing a war with Iraq, which is what the Senate Intelligence Committee report appears to suggest.
“To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked,” Dean wrote in a June 6, 2003 column for findlaw.com.
“Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be “a high crime” under the Constitution’s impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony “to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose.
Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said, however, “impeachment is off the table.”