Why the Fight Over Intelligence May Be a Wash

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U.S. President George W. Bush speaks during a signing ceremony September 26, 2006, at the White House. Bush signed H.R. 5684, the United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act during the ceremony.

Read hurriedly, the National Intelligence Estimate about terrorism that was released in part by the White House this week sounds a lot like a speech by the President: It's essential to win in Iraq. Democracy is the antidote to terrorism. Terrorists are trying to kill us.

Of the roughly 45 sentences in the four pages that were released (around one-tenth of the whole document), most of them make points that have been repeatedly made by the President in his speeches. The White House communications elves underscored that by issuing the latest in a series of fact sheets titled with a hat tip to Paul Harvey: "The Rest of the Story: The NIE Reflects Previous Statements About The War On Terror."

But a few of those sentences are giving heartburn to Republicans, and hope to Democrats who were beginning to think that President George W. Bush had once again outmaneuvered them by taking the national-security high ground in an election year. The report, called "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States," is dated April, but became a political flashpoint this week after The New York Times learned of its sensational conclusion that the war in Iraq had the unintended consequence of "breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement."

That would mean Iraq was part of the problem — not a part of the solution, as the White House has always argued. The warnings about Iraq only come up in about three places. But they show that key voices in the 16-agency intelligence community harbor serious doubts about the war. And clever bureaucrats have seeded that dissent throughout the executive summary.

Rep. Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, asserted that the report shows that despite the President's contention that fighting terrorists in Baghdad means Americans won't have to fight them in Boston, "The opposite is true. Because we are fighting them there, it may become more likely that we'll have to fight them here."

Bush responded hotly to the news accounts, saying during an East Room appearance on Tuesday: "Here we are, coming down the stretch in an election campaign, and it's on the front page of your newspapers. Isn't that interesting? Somebody has taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes."

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