President Bush was on television just now saying that he will declassify the intelligence report that apparently says that Iraq has been a distraction from the War on Terror.
Reuters has more information:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Bush administration said on Tuesday it may declassify an intelligence report in order to respond to Democrats who say the document shows the Iraq war has been a distraction from the war on terrorism.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said officials were “giving serious consideration” to releasing the National Intelligence Estimate on the U.S. terrorism threat to demonstrate that the section being seized on by Democrats is only one part of the overall picture.
The report, part of which was leaked to the media, has become an issue in the runup to November 7 mid-term elections when control of both houses of Congress is at stake.
Part of the report said U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Iraq war has made the worldwide threat from Islamist extremists more dangerous.
It has inspired their growing militant movement and created a ready source of anti-American rhetoric, current and former intelligence officials familiar with the document say.
Perino said one paragraph in the lengthy report was “wildly taken out of context” and that some officials believe the whole document, provided to the U.S. Congress in April, should be released to put that paragraph in context.
Update: Greg Tinti has the video of President Bush announcing that he’s instructed John Negroponte to declassify the report.
Update II: The AP is reporting:
President Bush on Tuesday said it is naive and a mistake to think that the war with Iraq has worsened terrorism, disputing a national intelligence assessment by his own administration. He said he was declassifying part of the report.
“Some people have guessed what’s in the report and concluded that going into Iraq was a mistake. I strongly disagree,” Bush said.
He asserted that portions of the classified report that had been leaked were done so for political purposes, referring to the Nov. 7 midterm elections.
Bush announced that he was ordering parts of the report declassified during a White House news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Update III: Spook86 at In from the Cold is a former intelligence guy who still has lots of contacts in the intelligence community and has gotten his hands on quite of bit of the report that did not appear in the NY Times. No wonder President Bush wants to declassify this report.
Update IV: Lorie Byrd blogged about the NIE leak yesterday.
Update V: Here’s the transcript from today’s press conference. Of particular note is Hamid Karzai’s response to a question from a seemingly vacuous reporter named Jennifer about the war on terror:
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. We’ll have two questions a side. We’ll start with Jennifer Loven.
Q Thank you, sir. Even after hearing that one of the major conclusions of the National Intelligence Estimate in April was that the Iraq war has fueled terror growth around the world, why have you continued to say that the Iraq war has made this country safer?
And to President Karzai, if I might, what do you think of President Musharraf’s comments that you need to get to know your own country better when you’re talking about where terror threats and the Taliban threat is coming from?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Ma’am, before I go to remarks by my brother, President Musharraf, terrorism was hurting us way before Iraq or September 11th. The President mentioned some examples of it. These extremist forces were killing people in Afghanistan and around for years, closing schools, burning mosques, killing children, uprooting vineyards, with vine trees, grapes hanging on them, forcing populations to poverty and misery.
They came to America on September 11th, but they were attacking you before September 11th in other parts of the world. We are a witness in Afghanistan to what they are and how they can hurt. You are a witness in New York. Do you forget people jumping off the 80th floor or 70th floor when the planes hit them? Can you imagine what it will be for a man or a woman to jump off that high? Who did that? And where are they now? And how do we fight them, how do we get rid of them, other than going after them? Should we wait for them to come and kill us again? That’s why we need more action around the world, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, to get them defeated — extremism, their allies, terrorists and the like.
Bravo, President Karzai.
Update VI: National Review Online published its editorial on the leaking of the NIE. It ends with this sentence:
Properly understood, the NIE leak confirms President Bush’s argument that Iraq is an important front in the War on Terror, and that achieving victory there is essential.