WASHINGTON - The House on Thursday rejected two attempts by Democratic lawmakers for additional inquiries into the handling of intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs.
Democrats sought to include the inquiries in a bill authorizing 2004 intelligence activities. That bill, whose details are mostly classified, was expected to be approved late Thursday or early Friday.
Democrats have questioned whether prewar intelligence was inaccurate or manipulated to back up President Bush's push for war. Republicans have said there is no sign of wrongdoing and have accused Democrats of raising the issue for political reasons.
Reviews of administration assertions of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction already under way by the House and Senate intelligence committees and the Senate Armed Services committees. But some Democrats said they don't go far enough.
An amendment proposed by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas to require the U.S. comptroller general to study U.S. intelligence-sharing with U.N. inspectors was defeated 239-185.
By a 347-76 vote, the House rejected an amendment by Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio to require the CIA's inspector general to audit all telephone and electronic communications between the CIA and Vice President Dick Cheney relating to Iraq's weapons.
Kucinich, a presidential candidate and outspoken opponent of the war, cited a Washington Post story in which unidentified intelligence analysts said they had felt pressured by Cheney to make their assessments meet administration policy objectives.
In debate Wednesday, Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., called Kucinich's proposal the ``cheap shot amendment of the year.''
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Jane Harman of California, also opposed Kucinich's proposal, saying his concerns could be examined by the committee's review of prewar intelligence.
Harman said the early stages of that review found that the administration ignored doubts about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons capability. But Harman said she still believes Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that could now be in the hands of anti-American fighters in Iraq or terrorists elsewhere.
She said the early stages of her committee's review has made clear that Iraq once had chemical and biological weapons and that these weapons were easy to hide - but administration officials ``rarely included the caveats and qualifiers attached to the intelligence community's judgments.''
``For many Americans, the administration's certainty gave the impression there was even stronger intelligence about Iraq's possession of and intention to use WMD,'' she said.
Harman said the committee was reviewing whether intelligence agencies ``made clear to policy-makers and Congress that most of its analytic judgments were based on things like aerial photographs, Iraqi defector interviews - not hard facts.''
Harman also said that intelligence linking al-Qaida to Iraq ``is conflicting, contrary to what was claimed by the administration.''
Harman said the committee's review would be thorough and that Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., has told her he will hold open hearings, which she hopes will begin in July. But she also said the investigation had to be ``mindful of the burden the intelligence agencies are carrying.''
``Our nation is best served by an effective intelligence community, not one hobbled by risk-aversion and finger-pointing,'' she said.
The intelligence authorization bill would pay for programs aimed at improving intelligence sharing among agencies, increase training of state and local agencies, modernize an aging satellite network, strengthen human espionage and improve counterintelligence efforts.
The bill's cost is classified, but has been estimated at $40 billion. Goss said that level would meet Bush's request. It will have to be reconciled with a version being considered by the Senate.
© 2003 The Associated Press