Lawmakers: Declassify Terror Report

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The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee urged the Bush administration Monday to declassify the most recent, high-level intelligence assessment on global terror — a report that has given new fervor to the election-year debate about how the Iraq war has changed security threats.

Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said the American people should be able to see a public version of the report and draw their own conclusions about its contents. So far, he said, the public discussion has given the "false impression" that the National Intelligence Estimate focuses exclusively on Iraq and terrorism.

"That is not true," Roberts said, noting that the committee has had the report since April. "This NIE examines global terrorism in its totality."

In a letter to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the committee's top Democrat, said declassifying the report's conclusions would provide a complete picture of the report and "contribute greatly to the public debate" on counterterrorism policies.

The report distills the thinking of senior U.S. intelligence analysts working throughout the nation's 16 spy agencies. Its conclusions are considered to be the voice of the U.S. intelligence community.

The New York Times first reported Saturday that the highly classified assessment finds that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has helped fuel a new generation of extremists and that the overall terror threat has grown since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — a conclusion at odds with President Bush's assertions that the nation is safer.

But Bush administration officials, including Negroponte, are contesting the media accounts, saying they describe only a portion of the conclusions and therefore distort the analysts' findings on trends in global terrorism.

Negroponte was to speak at a dinner in Washington Monday night.

As the November election approaches, the report has touched off an intense political debate about the impact of Iraq on U.S. security and the Bush administration's ability to go after terrorists.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Osama bin Laden and other Sept. 11 planners have not yet been brought to justice and Bush should read the intelligence carefully "before giving another misleading speech about progress in the war on terrorism." She and 10 other Democratic leaders asked House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to hold hearings on the document's findings.

Intelligence officials don't normally discuss such high-level assessments in public before they are declassified. Yet in an unusual statement issued Sunday, Negroponte said the intelligence estimate "highlights the importance of the outcome in Iraq on the future of global jihadism."

He said the document concludes that "should the Iraqi people prevail in establishing a stable political and security environment, the jihadists will be perceived to have failed and fewer jihadists will leave Iraq determined to carry on the fight elsewhere."

At a speech in April, also believed to draw from the intelligence assessment, Negroponte's deputy at the time, Gen. Michael Hayden, said the centrality of the fight in Iraq and the diffusion of radical Islamic groups reinforce each other.

"We must understand the deep underlying realities there, and more importantly how it is routinely portrayed in Islamic media, continues to cultivate supporters for the global jihadist movement," he said.

Hayden said the threat from "self-radicalized" cells that are not necessarily tied to al Qaeda or some other central organization will also grow in importance. "The homeland will not be immune to such cells, but the threat will be especially acute abroad," he said.