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Senate to probe how case for war was made

Democrats' gambit revived a long-delayed Senate inquiry.

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By moving the Senate into a secret session for two hours this week, Democrats put a politically charged question back on the table: Did the Bush administration exaggerate the case for war against Iraq?

Emboldened by last week's indictment of former top White House aide I. Lewis Libby, Democrats Tuesday used an obscure parliamentary rule to capture the Senate floor. In doing so, they infuriated Republicans but won a timetable to complete a long-delayed Senate investigation of whether the White House manipulated the intelligence used to justify invading Iraq.

An earlier phase of this probe, completed in July 2004, offered a searing critique of prewar intelligence estimates. Its conclusions were amplified in a report by the 9/11 commission the following month. Together, these reports spurred legislation to reform US intelligence agencies.

But neither review examined whether government officials tendentiously misused intelligence. Democrats argued for months that this element - not just reviewing failures of the intelligence community - must be part of the committee's oversight responsibility.

Now, so-called Phase 2 would investigate whether public statements, testimony, and reports by US government officials were supported by available intelligence. It would also probe whether a Pentagon policy group under Douglas Feith ginned up the case for war, preempting other intelligence.

From the start, the panel has been stymied by disagreements.

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