November 19, 2005 in Nation/World

Panel that made case for war investigated

Greg Miller and Mark Mazzetti Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – The Defense Department’s inspector general’s office said Friday it had begun investigating a Pentagon team that former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith used to build the U.S. case against Saddam Hussein and plan the Iraq war.

The investigation is likely to call fresh attention to the Bush administration’s case for war as the White House faces criticism that it exaggerated Baghdad’s threat.

Shelton R. Young, the Pentagon’s acting deputy inspector general for intelligence, told senior Pentagon officials Wednesday that his office would investigate whether Feith’s operation “conducted unauthorized, unlawful or inappropriate intelligence activities.”

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, a senior Democrat on the panel, requested the investigation. The Pentagon released Young’s memo describing the inquiry Friday evening.

The investigation is expected to focus on the work of analysts who spent months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq sifting intelligence reports for evidence that Hussein’s government had ties to al-Qaida – a claim administration officials used in making the case for war.

As the Pentagon’s third-ranking civilian official, Feith was one of the administration’s most influential advocates of toppling Hussein’s regime. His advocacy of a hard line toward Hussein turned his office into the nerve center for U.S. policy toward Iraq. Feith resigned earlier this year.

Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, Feith assigned two Pentagon staff members to sift raw intelligence to determine whether the U.S. intelligence community had missed links between rogue states and international terrorist networks.

The two-member intelligence unit claimed to have discovered links that the CIA had overlooked, and briefed the National Security Council, the CIA, and members of Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff.

A Feith memorandum about the group’s discoveries was leaked to the news media. Cheney presented it as the “best source” on the links between al-Qaida and Iraq.

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