WASHINGTON -- President Bush will name members of a commission to review prewar U.S. intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs, a senior administration official said Monday.
The senior official said the president consulted some "appropriate" lawmakers about the appointments for a bipartisan, independent commission.
Many such previous panels have involved compromises in which the president names some members and congressional leaders select others.
Bush could name the appointments as soon as Monday, but they also could come in a few days as the White House scrambles to arrange security clearances and other procedures for the panel members, administration sources said.
The intelligence to be reviewed was used to justify the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the first under Bush's national security strategy calling for pre-emptive attacks against terrorist groups and nations that possess or are developing weapons of mass destruction.
David Kay, the former U.S. chief weapons inspector in Iraq, told a Senate panel last week that his group did not find such weapons and that he didn't believe stockpiles of banned weapons would turn up either.
"It turns out we were all wrong, and that is most disturbing," Kay said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing during which he called for an independent probe of the apparent intelligence failure.
Initially, the White House rejected calls from Kay and lawmakers for an independent review of prewar intelligence on Iraq. But with political pressure mounting, Vice President Dick Cheney began making calls last week to key members of Congress to explore potential compromises.
The president is expected to sign an executive order creating the commission.
White House staff have been told to review procedures for staffing and sharing information with the panel -- an issue that has caused conflict with the commission studying intelligence lapses before the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The panel also will be charged with exploring the quality of intelligence gathering relating to the challenges of weapons proliferation and "outlaw regimes" that preside over closed societies, sources said.
"[The president] wants it to be more broad than Iraq," the senior official said. "The president's view is there are a number of challenges for our intelligence community on the issues of weapons of mass destruction, and we need to look at the broader issue of closed societies and outlaw regimes and our capabilities to gather necessary intelligence."
Bush will set a deadline for the investigation of sometime in early to mid-2005, the sources said. The panel is likely to have nine members, the sources said.
The British government is expected to announce soon whether it will order an inquiry into why no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, according to the office of Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The White House sources spoke about the Iraq inquiry after a week in which Kay and congressmen from both parties called for an independent investigation into why U.S. intelligence appeared to be wrong.
"It's important that it be outside the normal political process so it can have the maximum credibility," Kay told CNN.
"This is important for domestic support of the intelligence community and of our foreign policy. It's important for national security, and it's certainly important for our ability to lead other countries in the future against threats that we may think threaten us."
Kay said the United States was not alone in its prewar interpretation of Iraq's weapons capability. Although other countries' intelligence agencies differed on how serious the threat from Iraq was and what course of action to take to mitigate it, "there was very little difference around the world on the issue of 'Does [Saddam Hussein] have weapons?' " Kay told CNN. " ' Yes, he did,' was the consensus."
In the National Intelligence Estimate, which was declassified in October 2002, the U.S. State Department said it could not find a compelling case that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons. But the administration never cited that report in making the public case to go to war.
"There are caveats that clearly dropped out, dissenting opinions that clearly dropped out, as you moved higher up and people read the headline summaries," Kay said. "I think this is something that needs to be investigated and looked at."
Kay said Bush's policy of pre-emptive war cannot survive intact unless the quality of U.S. intelligence-gathering and analysis is improved.
"If you cannot rely on good, accurate intelligence that is credible to the American people and to others abroad, you certainly can't have a policy of pre-emption," he said on "Fox News Sunday."
Hagel: 'America's credibility is at stake'
U.S. officials may have misused what intelligence they did have, suggested Sen. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee. He accused Cheney of making inaccurate statements about Iraq's weapons capabilities before the war.
Biden cited comments Cheney made before the war such as a March appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which the vice president said, "We believe Saddam has reconstituted nuclear weapons."
Biden said he had seen no such evidence.
"No intelligence person ever said that, that I'm aware of, and the vice president went ahead and blandly and boldly stated it," Biden said. "It was not accurate. So one of the things we have to look at is not just whether there was pressure but whether the information given the administration was properly used."
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, has been calling for a probe since last summer, when discrepancies emerged about Bush's 2003 State of the Union assertion that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R- Nebraska, of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees agreed that an investigation is needed.
"We need to open this up in a very nonpartisan, outside commission to see where we are," Hagel said. "I don't think there's any way around it. ... America's credibility is at stake."
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