The Bush administration is facing new charges over its handling of pre-war intelligence, with a book alleging that the CIA ignored a mass of evidence gleaned from Iraqi weapons scientists, months before the 2003 invasion, that Saddam Hussein had abandoned his WMD programmes.
According to the book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, Sawsan alHaddad, sister of an Iraqi nuclear scientist, was one of 30 foreign-based Iraqis who agreed to contact relatives supposedly working on weapons development. Every one reported that the programmes did not exist.
"Don't they know there is no nuclear programme?," her brother told her. The nuclear programme had been dead since 1991. "We don't have enough spare parts for our conventional military, we can't even shoot down an aeroplane, we don't have anything left," she reported him saying. A month later the national intelligence estimate on Iraq's alleged WMD was issued, stating that Iraq was "reconstituting its nuclear programme".
The book, written by James Risen, a New York Times journalist, depicts an enfeebled and blunder-prone CIA. Its most striking chapter concerns the National Security Agency, and the disclosure that it has for three years been conducting electronic surveillance without warrants against US citizens.
President Bush has ordered an inquiry into the leak, and the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee is to hold hearings in the next few weeks.
The book provides detail of the tension over Iraq between George W Bush and his father. It recounts how Mr Bush "angrily hung up the telephone" after his father, who was President from 1998 to 1992, complained that his son was allowing the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, "and a cadre of neoconservative ideologues" to exert excessive influence over foreign policy.