By JoANNE ALLEN
A U.S. watchdog agency has concluded a Pentagon office conducted intelligence work in the build-up to the Iraq war that was not illegal but was inappropriate, U.S. defense officials said on Thursday.
Democrats in Congress have alleged the unit, under former U.S. defense policy chief Douglas Feith, a strong advocate of deposing Saddam Hussein, twisted intelligence information to suggest links between Iraq and militants from al Qaeda.
The Pentagon inspector general’s report concluded the Office of Special Plans in Feith’s department had done nothing illegal or unauthorized but that some of its activities were “inappropriate,” two U.S. defense officials told Reuters.
The report found the office had produced “alternative intelligence estimates,” one official said.
The Pentagon took issue with that finding, believing Feith’s office had given a critique of intelligence information but not produced intelligence products, the official said.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as the report has not been released. An unclassified summary is to be published on Friday morning, when the Senate Armed Services Committee is briefed on its findings.
Both officials said the report made no recommendations.
Top Bush administration officials cited alleged ties between Iraq and al Qaeda as a justification for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
But the bipartisan commission which investigated the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 later reported that no collaborative relationship existed between the two.
The inspector general’s office declined to comment on its report ahead of the Senate briefing.
But the report was made available to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday afternoon and its chairman, a Democrat, was swift to speak out.
“The IG (inspector general) has concluded that this office was engaged in intelligence activities. The Senate Intelligence Committee was never informed of these activities,” Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia said in a statement.
“Whether these actions were authorized or not, it appears that they were not in compliance with the law.”
He said he would consult with the committee’s vice chairman, Republican Kit Bond of Missouri, to determine whether any further action was warranted.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Gray)
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