The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger repeated the false claim that the Robb-Silverman commission exonerated the Bush administration from the charge that it had misled the public about evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In fact, the commission did not even consider the question.
In his March 3 Wall Street Journal opinion column, deputy editorial page editor Daniel Henninger asserted, "nothing has been more destructive to Washington's current ability to function than the belief that 'Bush lied' about WMD" in Iraq, then claimed that the notion "was refuted by the Robb-Silberman Commission." In fact, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction -- co-chaired by former Sen. Charles Robb (D-VA) and Republican attorney and former judge Laurence H. Silberman -- did not investigate whether President Bush or members of his administration misled the public about Iraq intelligence. Nor, for that matter, has any other governmental entity to date. Rather, as Media Matters for America has previously noted (here and here), the Robb-Silberman Commission concluded that "[t]he Intelligence Community did not make or change any analytic judgments in response to political pressure" in the buildup to the Iraq war, though even that conclusion has been disputed by some senior intelligence officials.
Henninger's assertion that the Robb-Silberman Commission exonerated Bush of the charge that he "'lied' about WMD" is false. In its March 2005 report to President Bush, the commission noted: "[W]e were not authorized to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence assessments they received from the Intelligence Community." Indeed, Bush's February 6, 2004, executive order establishing the commission limited the scope of its investigation to the production of intelligence:
[T]he Commission shall specifically examine the Intelligence Community's intelligence prior to the initiation of Operation Iraqi Freedom and compare it with the findings of the Iraq Survey Group and other relevant agencies or organizations concerning the capabilities, intentions, and activities of Iraq relating to the design, development, manufacture, acquisition, possession, proliferation, transfer, testing, potential or threatened use, or use of Weapons of Mass Destruction and related means of delivery.
Similarly, the first phase of the Senate Intelligence Committee's 2004 Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq determined that intelligence assessments were not tainted by political "pressure." But the committee postponed until after the 2004 presidential election analysis of whether the Bush administration misused that intelligence, pledging to include it in the second -- as yet uncompleted -- phase of the report.
As Media Matters has previously noted, even the conclusion of these two reports that analysts received no "pressure" in gathering intelligence has been disputed by some senior intelligence officials, including W. Patrick Lang, the former chief of the Middle East office of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and Richard Kerr, a onetime acting CIA director who led an internal investigation of the CIA's failure to correctly assess Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities.