Bush and C.I.A. Won't Release Paper on Prewar Intelligence

By DOUGLAS JEHL

The New York Times

July 14, 2004

WASHINGTON, July 13 - The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency have refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee a one-page summary of prewar intelligence in Iraq prepared for President Bush that contains few of the qualifiers and none of the dissents spelled out in longer intelligence reviews, according to Congressional officials.

Senate Democrats claim that the document could help clear up exactly what intelligence agencies told Mr. Bush about Iraq's illicit weapons. The administration and the C.I.A. say the White House is protected by executive privilege, and Republicans on the committee dismissed the Democrats' argument that the summary was significant.

The review, prepared for President Bush in October 2002, summarized the findings of a classified, 90-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq's illicit weapons. Congressional officials said that notes taken by Senate staffers who were permitted to review the document show that it eliminated references to dissent within the government about the National Intelligence Estimate's conclusions.

"In determining what the president was told about the contents of the N.I.E. dealing with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, qualifiers and all, there is nothing clearer than this single page," Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said in a 10-page "additional view" that was published as an addendum to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Friday.

A separate white paper summarizing the National Intelligence Estimate was made public in October 2002. The Senate report criticized the white paper as having "misrepresented'' what the Senate committee described as a "more carefully worded assessment" in the classified intelligence estimate. For example, the white paper excluded information found in the National Intelligence Estimate, like the names of intelligence agencies that had dissented from some of the findings, most importantly on Iraq's nuclear weapons program. That approach, the Senate committee said, "provided readers with an incomplete picture of the nature and extent of the debate within the intelligence community regarding these issues."

Among the specific dissents excluded from the public white paper on Iraq's weapons was the view of the State Department's intelligence branch, spelled out in the classified version of the document, that Iraq's importation of aluminum tubes could not be conclusively tied to a continuing nuclear weapons program, as other intelligence agencies asserted. Also left out of the white paper was the view of Air Force intelligence that pilotless aerial vehicles being built by Iraq, seen by other intelligence agencies as designed to deliver chemical or biological weapons, were not suited for that purpose.

The fact that there were significant differences between the white paper and the classified versions of the intelligence estimate on Iraq's weapons first became apparent last summer, when the Bush administration made public more of the classified document.

The full National Intelligence Estimate asserted that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and was reconstituting its nuclear program, but included some caveats and summarized dissents made by the State Department's intelligence branch, among other agencies.

At a background briefing on Friday that coincided with the release of the Senate report, a Senate Republican official noted that intelligence agencies routinely prepared such abbreviated summaries of National Intelligence Estimates for presidents, and that those summaries were routinely covered by the doctrine of executive privilege.

Mr. Bush and his advisers had full access to the classified 90-page intelligence estimate, "Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction," which provided a more detailed and qualified account of the intelligence agencies' views, the Senate Republican official noted.

The main body of the 511-page report that was approved unanimously by the Senate Intelligence Committee made no mention of the summary sent to Mr. Bush. In interviews, Democratic officials said that Republicans on the panel, which meets in closed session, had blocked their efforts to formally request the document from the White House. They also said that Democrats on the panel had tried and failed to persuade Republicans to include in the committee report a description of the one-page summary as having been an inadequate reflection of the full intelligence estimate.

The document is still classified, according to Congressional officials, who declined to discuss it in detail. But in his written "additional view," included as an appendix to the Senate report, Senator Durbin said there was "no reason" that the summary prepared for Mr. Bush "should not be declassified in its entirety and publicly released."

Republican Congressional officials have said there is nothing unusual about the preparation of the one-page summary for Mr. Bush. They say they accept as legitimate the C.I.A.'s refusal to share the document with the intelligence committee, on the ground that documents prepared by the agency explicitly for a president should remain privileged.

Along with members of Congress and other top administration officials, Mr. Bush and his advisers were also provided with the full, classified version of the intelligence estimate, and Republican Congressional officials say it would be misleading to focus on the abbreviated version contained in the one-page summary.

John E. McLaughlin, the acting director of central intelligence, said last week that he believed that the C.I.A. should have included more caveats in the 2002 intelligence estimate, particularly in a section that summarized its key judgments. On Tuesday, a senior intelligence official said of the presidential summary: "We expect people to read beyond one page.''

A one-page President's Summary is routinely prepared as part of any National Intelligence Estimate, according to intelligence officials. Like the National Intelligence Estimate, the summary is produced by the staff of the National Intelligence Council, which reports to the director of central intelligence.

A President's Summary is written explicitly for the president, and is reviewed and endorsed by the chiefs of the 15 American intelligence agencies, who form what is known as the National Foreign Intelligence Board.

The one-page summary is not the only document that the White House refused to share with the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to Congressional officials. Copies of the President's Daily Brief that the committee had sought were also denied to the panel, even though the White House did allow another investigative body, the president's commission on the Sept. 11 attacks, to review those highly classified documents.

A White House official suggested Tuesday that Democrats, having joined Republicans in issuing a unanimous report that did not address the question of the one-page summary, were now, by focusing attention on it, "seeking to rewrite the conclusions." The official said the White House believed that the document should not be made public because it was covered by the doctrine of executive privilege.

In his written statement, Senator Durbin said the C.I.A. had told the intelligence committee that 80 copies of the one-page summary had been distributed to the White House, a fact he called an indication that the document had not been prepared exclusively for the president. He said the summary "contains no intelligence beyond that contained" in the broader intelligence estimate, which was provided to members of Congress and to the committee, "and does not set forth policy advice that should be considered privileged."

A Senate Democratic official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that three members of the intelligence committee staff were permitted by the National Security Council to review the one-page Presidential Summary and to take notes on its contents. But, the official said, the staff members were not permitted to take possession of the document or to publicly describe its contents in detail.