Speed Read: The WMD Intel Report

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A presidential commission chaired by former Senator Chuck Robb and retired Judge Laurence Silberman was blunt in assigning blame for the flawed conclusion that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), one of the major reasons Bush gave for invading Iraq

WHO SCREWED UP? The finger pointed directly at U.S. spy agencies: prewar knowledge of Saddam's WMD was "dead wrong." Most of the material it was based on was "either worthless or misleading." Important for the President, the report states that his Administration didn't pressure intelligence analysts to support its conclusions about Iraq. The panel passed on the issue of whether senior officials hyped the bad info to justify the invasion.

DID ANYTHING GO RIGHT? There was praise for the spy community's discovery of Libya's nuclear program, an act that led Muammar Gaddafi to close it.

SO EVERYTHING'S O.K. NOW, RIGHT? Nope. The bottom line is that many of the causes of the intelligence breakdown in Iraq persist and "are still all too common" in American espionage. These include a "poorly coordinated" bureaucracy that failed to question key information from an Iraqi defector who was a "fabricator" known as Curveball. Even today the U.S. "knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world's most dangerous actors," notably Iran and North Korea.

CAN THE PROBLEM BE FIXED? The commission's 74 recommendations are designed to "transform" intelligence by undoing bureaucracies and smashing competing CIA, FBI and Pentagon fiefs. The report stresses the need to develop more human agents instead of relying so much on technology.

A WARNING Finally, the report sounds the alarm about a biological warfare attack on the U.S., saying the country has so far avoided such a potential catastrophe mostly by luck. "The threat is deeply troubling today; it will be more so tomorrow," the report declared in some of its most pointed language. "The intelligence community, and the government as a whole, needs to approach the problem with a new urgency and new strategies."

WHAT NOW? Reformers hope that the outspoken new report will give a major boost to the uncertain process OF revamping the sprawling, ineffective intelligence cojmplex. The 9/11 Commission recently called for big changes in U.S. intelligence-gathering, but it has never been clear just how quickly or thoroughly the problem would be addressed. As former Secretary of the Navy and 9/11 Commission member John Lehman told TIME, "We now have a presidentially appointed body giving us clear evidence that the U.S. intelligence establishment is truly dysfunctional and simply not working. We need nothing short of a complete rebuilding of the culture of the intelligence community, which at the moment is totally dominated by process, procedure and legalism."

The job of overseeing intelligence reform will fall to President's Bush's Director of National Intelligence, former ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte, who should be confirmed by the Senate soon. The new intelligence czar, a post created by Congress partly on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, will oversee the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, some of which will continue to report to their traditional bureaucracies as well . The Justice Dept., for example, will continue to work closely with the FBI on its law enforcement functions, while DIA will continue to function in close coordination with the Pentagon.

If Negroponte is to rein in the conflicting interests of such a far-flung bureaucracy, he will need firm backing from President Bush. Otherwise, bureaucratic rivalries, exacerbated by overlapping duties and jurisdictions, could perpetuate the mess that Senator Robb and judge Silberman say must be cleaned up.