Powell: Key intelligence piece on Iraq flawed
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged that the "most dramatic" part of his presentation to the United Nations making the case for war on Iraq was based on flawed intelligence.
Powell also said he hoped a commission investigating the U.S. intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction would reveal how the CIA ended up depending on unreliable sources for key evidence he used to argue for war.
The United States justified its first preemptive war by accusing Iraq of amassing illegal arms and invaded last year without explicit U.N. approval and over the objections of many allies.
In February, 2003, Powell made a major presentation of the U.S. case against Iraq at a special session of the U.N. Security Council, where he said the United States had several sources showing mobile chemical weapons laboratories.
But on Friday, the top American diplomat said the evidence on the trailers has been shown to be shaky.
"Now it appears not to be the case that it was that solid. But at the time I was preparing that presentation it was presented to me as solid," Powell told reporters on a flight home from a trip to Europe.
While doubts about the U.S. sources of evidence for the laboratories have been raised for over a year, Powell's remarks were the most straightforward acknowledgment from the Bush administration that the information was probably wrong.
"That was the most dramatic of them (pieces of evidence) and I made sure it was multi-sourced," he said. "Now if the sources fell apart, then we need to find out how we've gotten ourselves in that position."
"I hope (the commission) will look into these matters to see whether or not the intelligence agency had a basis for the confidence that they placed in the intelligence at that time," he said.
The failure to unearth banned weapons a year after the invasion has fueled criticism of the Bush administration for misleading the country into a war that caused hundreds of U.S. deaths and sparked a deadly insurgency against the American occupation.
Despite being one of the administration's most respected officials, Powell's credibility has suffered because many critics saw him as the mouthpiece for the intelligence community over Iraq.
Powell sought on Friday to distance himself from the evidence he used in his U.N. presentation.
"I'm not the intelligence community," he said.