WASHINGTON - The House Intelligence Committee will look into a possible leak of classified information about secret CIA prisons but will not heed the request of the panel's top Democrat to restart a 2003 inquiry into prewar intelligence on Iraq.
As Democratic calls for intelligence-related reviews grow on Capitol Hill, a Republican congressional aide said work on the botched prewar Iraq estimates will stay with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is in the second phase of its investigation.
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because the lawmakers had not yet made the announcements.
The House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Rep. Peter Hoekstra, already has been investigating leaks of classified information. The Michigan Republican was not immediately available to comment.
At the White House, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley shot back at "the notion that somehow the administration manipulated prewar intelligence about Iraq."
"Some of the critics today believed themselves in 2002 that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, they stated that belief and they voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq because they believed Saddam Hussein posed a dangerous threat to the American people," he said. "For those critics to ignore their own past statements exposes the hollowness of their current attacks."
Hadley said the intelligence on Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction, which were never found, was "based on the aggregation of intelligence from a number of sources and represented the collective view of the intelligence community."
Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., called for a congressional investigation into the disclosure of the existence of CIA secret prisons in a Nov. 2 story in The Washington Post. The story said they were located in eight countries, including democracies in Eastern Europe.
In a letter, the GOP leaders said leaking of classified information by employees of the government appeared to have increased in recent years, "establishing a dangerous trend that, if not addressed swiftly and firmly, likely will worsen."
On Tuesday, California Rep. Jane Harman, the House intelligence panel's senior Democrat, urged the panel to return to its work on the prewar intelligence on Iraq - a request that mirrored the efforts of Democratic senators to draw attention to the administration's mistakes on the war.
"The point of it is to understand fully how we collected, analyzed and presented intelligence ... and what responsibility the intelligence community had to correct misinformation by policymakers," Harman said in an interview.
The House committee began an inquiry in June 2003 and produced interim findings in September of that year in a letter to then-CIA Director George Tenet. The committee, chaired then by the current CIA Director Porter Goss, said the United States went to war in Iraq on the basis of outdated and vague intelligence.
Harman said the Republicans have since refused to continue the work, even as Democratic staff have pored over 19 volumes of material from spy agencies.
Separately, the Senate Intelligence Committee produced a 511-page report in July 2004 that found that the CIA provided false and unfounded assessments of the threat posed by Iraq.
In March, a presidential commission on weapons of mass destruction concluded America's spy agencies were "dead wrong" in most prewar assessments about Iraq's weapons and know disturbingly little about current nuclear threats.
Harman said she wanted to dig deeper, for instance doing more to understand the reservations held by the State Department's intelligence bureau.
She also wanted to study the statements made by policymakers and whether the intelligence backed them up - an issue the Senate is investigating.