A senior Democratic senator Monday accused CIA director George Tenet of discrepancies between his public statements on Iraq's suspected arsenal of banned weapons and classified information provided by his agency to UN officials.
Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Central Intelligence Agency failed to provide a complete list of suspected Iraqi weapons sites to UN weapons inspectors, although Tenet made public statements saying it had.
He called on Tenet to provide a complete accounting of the information given to UN weapons inspectors for public scrutiny.
"This goes to the question as to whether or not the statements that are made by the Central Intelligence Agency are factually accurate, when they make public statements that are important," said Levin, who also serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"Why did the CIA say that they had provided detailed information to the UN inspectors on all of the high and medium suspect sites with the UN, when they had not? Did the CIA act in this way in order not to undermine (the US president George W. Bush) administration policy? Was there another explanation for this?
"Seeking those answers is important, and is one of the many reasons why there needs to be a bipartisan inquiry into the objectivity and credibility of US intelligence before the war and the use of such intelligence."
After reviewing intelligence reports on the matter, Levin said Tenet's public statements about suspected Iraqi weapons sites were inaccurate and "contrary to classified numbers which he had given to me."
He said Tenet has in the past refused to release the information provided to the United Nations because of a secrecy arrangement, but Levin said UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix recently said he no qualms about releasing the information.
Levin also said the issue is part of the ongoing discussion about the reliability of US intelligence, after questions have arisen about the veracity of classified information used to justify the US-led war on Iraq.
"It undermines the credibility of the director of intelligence to be making public statements relative to intelligence which are not factually accurate," Levin said.
"We're going to have less confidence in (US intelligence) and the world's going to have less confidence in it, and countries that we need to work with us to go after terrorists are going to have less confidence in our intelligence assessment -- and that is going to make this nation less secure," Levin said.
Copyright 2003 AFP