CIA Wants Cheney Out of Senate Intel Report

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Never mind the fact that Dick Cheney’s hands-on role in developing the prewar intelligence picture of Iraq is, by now, a matter of public record — the CIA has asked that the declassified version of a highly critical Senate Intelligence Committee report to redact references to the Vice President. The classified version of the document does not use names, referring to actors by their title instead. But the Agency sought to have even references to titles be excised on national security grounds.

To suggestions that the redaction request could be interpreted as an effort to provide political cover for Cheney, a CIA official responds that "the purpose of declassification review is to protect intelligence sources, methods and other classified matters which, if disclosed, could be helpful to adversaries, like weapons proliferators and terrorists. It is not to stifle criticism." Leaders of the Senate panel don't see it the same way. "The Committee is extremely disappointed by the CIA’s excessive redactions to the report," Chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, and Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller, and West Virginia Democrat, said in a statement last week, without mentioning any specific CIA-proposed edits.

As the Senate prepares to release a version of its report some time after July 4, a Pentagon official involved with pre-war intelligence suggests the simplest approach for the U.S. intelligence community would be to fess up. "We got fooled," said the official. "We should just admit it… Saddam wanted us to think he had these weapons ready. He wanted to have them. He had programs. He was doing his best to scrape them together. But he didn’t have them."

Meanwhile, an intelligence heavyweight last week entered the fray with a new reform proposal that is already gathering high-level attention. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss — a former CIA clandestine services officer and leading contender for CIA director if President Bush is re-elected — quietly introduced a bill that would significantly expand the CIA director's executive and management authority over the whole intelligence community, a Goss spokesman confirmed to TIME. While the Director of Central Intelligence has responsibility for all intelligence gathering, more than 80 percent of the spy budget is outside the CIA's control, much of it in the Pentagon's spy satellite programs. A Goss aide said the bill would give the CIA director authority over 70 percent of the intelligence budget. According to a fact sheet, Goss' bill would implement many of the recommendations issued in December 2002 by a joint inquiry into 9/11 by the House and Senate intelligence committees, and it would boost the director's authority to wield more management power than some critics believe outgoing Director George Tenet has mustered. The chairman of the September 11 Commission told TIME he expects that his panel will review Goss' bill while writing its reform recommendations in the coming weeks. "I would put a lot of weight behind anything Porter Goss recommends," said chairman Tom Kean. "I would take any recommendation he makes very, very seriously."