In his first public speech in nine months, CIA Director George Tenet Thursday said Iraq never posed an imminent threat to the United States. But Tenet called for the search for weapons of mass destruction to continue in Iraq. He disputed the assertion of former US chief weapons inspector David Kay that the hunt is 85 percent over. Tenet’s speech came a year to the date after Colin Powell appeared before the United Nations to make the case for war. At the time Powell claimed that U.S. intelligence showed Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda. On Thursday Tenet made no mention of ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda and acknowledged that the intelligence gathered on weapons of mass destruction has been partially flawed. He said “In the intelligence business you are almost never completely wrong or completely right.” But overall he defended the CIA’s work and claimed it never came under political pressure from the White House. Meanwhile President Bush is expected to name members to a presidential panel to probe the Iraq weapons controversy. The Associated Press is reporting that one of the members will be Sen. John McCain. On Sunday, Bush is scheduled to discuss the Iraq controversy during a rare one-on-one televised interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press.
In Iraq, the country’s most powerful Shi’ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, survived an assassination bid when at least four gunmen fired on his entourage in Najaf. Sistani has been the lead advocate for direct elections in Iraq to form a new Iraqi government. Given his huge following as a Shiite cleric, many consider Sistani to be most powerful man in postwar Iraq. In January, tens of thousands of Shiites responded to his call to protest U.S. plans to transfer power through indirect elections.
In Russia at least 30 people have died after a bomb went off in a rush-hour subway train today in Moscow. More than 100 were also injured. The attack is suspected to have been a suicide bombing attack. The BBC reports that suspicion is likely to fall on separatists from Chechnya,
In Pakistan President Pervez Musharaf has pardoned the country’s top nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan who had admitted he sold nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
UPI is reporting that federal law enforcement officials have developed hard evidence that two employees of Vice President Dick Cheney’s office were involved in the unlawful illegal outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame last year. Plame was the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson who publicly questioned part of the Bush administration’s case for war against Iraq. According to UPI the two employees in Cheney’s office are his chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby and John Hannah. Hannah is identified by one source as the major player in the leak. According to UPI the FBI is threatening to send Hannah to jail for his role.
Meanwhile a top aide in the office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has resigned after he became the target of an investigation into how Republican aides gained access to the computer files of Democratic Senators. For months Republican aides accessed internal Democratic memos concerning judicial nominees. Many of these files later were published in the Washington Times and Wall Street Journal. Frist’s aide, Manuel Miranda, has denied any wrongdoing.
In campaign news, former presidential candidate Dick Gephardt is expected today to announce his endorsement of Senator John Kerry.
And the Sate Department has barred five Cuban acts from attending Sunday’s Grammy Awards. A State Department official said “Most Cuban artists are compensated by the Cuban government and are therefore employees” of the Cuban government and proceeds from their performances “financially enriches the Castro regime. The artists are Ibrahim Ferrer of the Buena Vista Social Club, Amadito Valdes, Barbarito Torres, Guillermo Rubalcaba, and the group Septeto Nacional Ignacio Pineiro.