By Jonathan S. Landay
WASHINGTON - A special unit run by former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's top policy aide inappropriately produced "alternative" intelligence reports that wrongly concluded that Saddam Hussein's regime had cooperated with al-Qaida, a Pentagon investigation has determined.
The Department of Defense Inspector General's Office found that former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith and his staff had done nothing illegal or unauthorized.
But Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who requested the investigation, called the findings "devastating" because senior administration officials, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, used Feith's work to help make their case for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
"We went to war based on the argument of the administration . . . that there was a link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein and that Saddam Hussein could give al-Qaida and other terrorist groups weapons," Levin said Thursday in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers.
The findings "are about as damning a statement as one can hear, and I think the American people will be absolutely furious," Levin continued. The lawmaker is a longtime critic of the administration's use of exaggerated and erroneous intelligence to justify the invasion and a leading voice for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.