Lawrence Wilkerson, a former U.S.
Army colonel who retired last year, said he learned
after the secretary of state's February 2003 speech
that key elements were wrong, based on faulty or manipulated
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California
Democrat who has served six years on the Intelligence
Committee, said Powell's speech was "a singular
event, because no one was more respected.''
"Putting that man before the
world with information that was not correct was a
dastardly thing to do,'' she added.
Feinstein was one of three senators
who presided over a hearing by the Democratic Policy
Committee on the use and misuse of pre-war intelligence
Democratic and Republican policy committees,
set up by the Senate 60 years ago, occasionally hold
forums that don't have the legislative weight of a
congressional committee hearing, but can spotlight
an issue not receiving attention elsewhere.
Senate Republicans belittled the hearing
as partisan theater, while Democrats pointed out that
with the GOP controlling Congress, no committee hearings
have been held on pre-war intelligence.
Four former government officials,
with a combined experience of more than 100 years,
participated in the hearing. Two of them, Wilkerson
and former Assistant Secretary of State Carl Ford,
said they were Republicans.
Paul Pillar, a CIA official who coordinated
U.S. intelligence on Iraq, said he believes that that
decision to invade Iraq was made by summer 2002, "and
instead of intelligence informing a policy decision,
it was used to justify a decision already made.''
Feinstein has pushed for an investigation
of the role played by Iraqi exiles, especially the
Iraqi National Congress, and a special Pentagon intelligence
office in pushing the country into war.
"There is still much that we
don't know about how this happened,'' she said.
The hearing also touched on how top
officials were blindsided by the Iraqi insurgency
in 2003. Wayne White, the State Department's principal
Iraq analyst, said the military did not listen to
his warning that there was 'a vast and renewable pool''
of militant Iraqis willing to attack U.S. forces.