President To Declassify Intelligence Report on Iraq

Washington - President Bush announced September 26 that he will release portions of a classified intelligence report that he said the American news media mischaracterized as linking Iraqi security operations with an increased terrorist threat in the United States.

Speaking to the media September 26 alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bush said the classified National Intelligence Estimate completed in April, titled Trends in Global Terrorism:  Implications for the United States, will be made available for public review.

Articles in major U.S. newspapers on September 24, citing anonymous sources, gave an impression that the report dealt principally with the relationship between Iraq and international terrorism, and stated that U.S. involvement in Iraq had made terrorism worse.

"Some people have guessed what is in the report and have concluded that going into Iraq was a mistake.  I strongly disagree," Bush says.

"I think it's a mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm to the American people makes us less safe," he said.

Terrorists are in Iraq and Afghanistan, he continued, because they seek to stop young democracies from developing.  They use the struggles there as recruitment tools, he said, as Osama bin Laden previously used Somalia and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"[T]o suggest that if we weren't in Iraq, we would see a rosier scenario with fewer extremists joining the radical movement requires us to ignore 20 years of experience," Bush said.  The United States was not in Iraq when the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, occurred, he said, nor when the World Trade Center in New York first was attacked in 1993; nor when U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked in 1998, nor when the destroyer USS Cole was attacked in 2000.

"My judgment is:  If we weren't in Iraq, they'd find some other excuse, because they have ambitions.  They kill in order to achieve their objectives," he said.

The president reiterated his position that the U.S. government will do "whatever it takes" to protect its citizens, and that the best way to do that in the War on Terror is to defeat the terrorists overseas.

"We're not going to let their excuses stop us from staying on the offense," he said.

As for the National Intelligence Estimate, the president said he found it interesting that stories about the report, which was finished in April, did not appear in the press until now.  "Somebody has taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes," he said, referring to possible attempts to influence the U.S. national elections on November 7.

Bush told reporters he has directed John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, to declassify the document as soon as possible to stop speculation about its findings and any attempt “to confuse the American people about the nature of this enemy."

Negroponte also spoke about the intelligence report in remarks he made September 25 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.  He said the recent media stories "left the incorrect impression that this [report] dealt principally with the relationship between Iraq and international terrorism."

In reality, the director said, the report "provides a broad, strategic framework for understanding the trends that will define the primary international terrorist threats to United States interests over the coming five years."

The process the report describes started years ago and still continues, he added.  The segment on Iraq represents only a small portion of the overall report, he said.

A transcript of Bush’s remarks is available on the White House Web site. The full text (PDF, 6 pages) of Negroponte’s prepared remarks is available on Web site of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

For more on U.S. responses to and policies about terrorism, see Response to Terrorism.