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Gary Younge
Secretary of state forced to defend credibility of intelligence reports

The CIA report gave President George Bush his last overview of Iraq's weapons programme, according to the New York Times.

Issued in October, it claimed that Iraq had both chemical and biological weapons and was seeking to revive its nuclear programme.

With no weapons of mass destruction yet found in Iraq, the retired analysts have been asked to assess the veracity of the reports.

It is claimed that the agency was under huge political pressure to satisfy the administration's push for war.

Both the secretary of state, Colin Powell, and CIA chief, George Tenet, have recently been forced to defend statements they made before the war which confidently proclaimed the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The question whether Bush officials misused intelligence to bolster their case for war will be the subject of a public Senate investigation which may begin this month.

"People are challenging the credibility of the use of this intelligence, and particularly its use by the president, the secretaries of state and defence, the CIA director and others," said Senator John Warner, the Republican chairman of the the armed services committee.

Earlier this week it emerged that Mr Powell had been so disturbed about questionable intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction that he assembled a secret team to review the information he was given before he made a crucial speech to the UN security council on February 5.

The team removed dozens of pages of alleged evidence about Iraq's banned weapons and ties to terrorists from a draft of his speech because they could not be verified, according to the magazine US News and World Report.

At one point he became so angry at the lack of adequate sourcing of the intelligence claims that he declared: "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit."

According to the magazine Greg Theilmann, a recently retired state department intelligence analyst directly involved in assessing the Iraqi threat, says that inside the administration "there was a lot of sorrow and anger at the way intelligence was misused".

Mr Powell was in touch with the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, throughout early February. "I had conversations with the British, with Jack Straw, constantly during the period," Mr Powell told the press on Monday.

"But I have conversations with him all the time, so he had a sense of how the presentation was coming together and what I would be saying ... he knew how it was coming together."

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