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Hand-picked intelligence?

Politicians spar over administration's case for war with Iraq
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White House officials took to the cameras again today to try and reinforce the president's defiance last week.  On Friday, President Bush accused Democrats of rewriting history about the administration's case for war with Iraq.

Bush said, "Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs."

But who investigated and what did they find?  There have been two investigations: one by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee chaired by Kansas Republican Pat Roberts and the other by a White House appointed bipartisan commission led by former Senator Charles Robb and Judge Laurence Silberman.

Neither found intelligence analysts were pressured.  However, several key issues were not addressed, most notably whether the White House took intelligence and then hyped it, used selective pieces, or buried dissenting information.

As the White House appointed Robb-Silberman commission reported, "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that was not part of our inquiry."

President Bush also hit back at Democrats for suggesting the administration's view of Iraq was not widely shared.

"They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein," maintained Bush.

Both foreign intelligence agencies and the Clinton administration agreed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.  But the Bush administration was the first to argue Saddam posed an imminent threat to the continental United States.

On the Senate floor last Thursday, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) said, "President Bush exaggerated the threat to the American people. It was not subtle. It was not nuanced. It was pure, unadulterated fear-mongering," 

Though President Bush said comments like that undermine national security.

But when it comes to false charges, Democrats point to dozens of administration claims before the war that implied the facts about Saddam were clear.

On a Sep. 8, 2002 appearance on "Meet The Press," Vice President Cheney said,  "He is, in fact, actively and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons."

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," Bush stated on Mar. 17, 2003.

According to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 57 percent of Americans are convinced the president deliberately misled the nation.  Some Democrats say the president can't even be trusted now.

DNC Chair Howard Dean said "the president didn't even tell the truth in his speech."

Republicans are hitting back by throwing in the “L-word."

Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) told CBS, "I happen to believe that it is a lie to say that the president lied to the American people."

But when will the American people get an independent view?  The Senate Select Committee began only recently what's known as "phase two," an examination of pre-war intelligence claims and public statements.  The panel chairman says there will not be any report or conclusions for months.  

Watch each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.