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Wilson, Madrid Spar Over Iraq Ad

By Jeff Jones
Copyright 2006 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Politics Writer
    Democratic congressional challenger Patricia Madrid is accusing Republican Rep. Heather Wilson of lying about prewar intelligence on Iraq and Wilson says the charge is false.
    "In May of 2003, after George Bush proclaimed 'mission accomplished,' Heather Wilson told us no intelligence was incorrect," says a TV ad from Madrid, the state attorney general.
    "Now, Heather Wilson tells us ... she knew the intelligence was wrong before she voted for the war," the ad says. "Heather Wilson. Lying for George Bush, leaving America less safe."
    Wilson called the ad "false and sadly typical of the desperate claims we have come to expect from" Madrid.
    Wilson, who faces Madrid in a tight contest for the 1st Congressional District seat she has held since 1998, commented in a two-page written response to Journal questions about the intelligence issue. Madrid responded to Journal questions through a spokeswoman.
    After saying the Madrid ad is false, Wilson's written statement reads, in part: "I voted for the (2002) resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq after looking at the totality of the evidence presented to the Congress by numerous federal intelligence agencies."
    Wilson then said that she had "reached the same conclusion" as 81 Democratic House members who voted for the resolution and that Madrid has not criticized them.
    Madrid campaign spokeswoman Heather Brewer said Madrid's ad does not stretch the truth.
    "Heather Wilson, knowing there were questions and concerns about the intelligence that George Bush was using to lead this country into war, looked the other way," Brewer charged.
    Madrid based her allegation about lying on two newspaper stories: A 2003 Journal story in which Wilson backed the prewar intelligence, and a recent Albuquerque Tribune story in which Wilson said she had questioned the CIA about some of the prewar intelligence before voting to authorize force.
    The Tribune story concerned high-strength aluminum tubes that Iraq reportedly tried to purchase before the war.
    President Bush, before the spring 2003 invasion of Iraq, told the American public the tubes were "suitable for nuclear weapons production," although experts disputed that assertion.
    The Tribune story did not say Wilson knew the intelligence about the tubes was wrong. The story said Wilson had asked intelligence officials about it, wasn't satisfied with their answers and didn't use the tube intelligence as a basis for her decision to authorize force.
    Wilson, in a 2005 Journal interview, said analysts from Albuquerque's Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory were part of the team of experts who concluded that the tubes were probably not intended for nuclear weapons manufacturing. She had said that conclusion was available to members of Congress, including herself, before the war.
    In her written remarks to the Journal this week, Wilson said she believed the "technical experts" were more likely to be correct than intelligence experts, such as the CIA, on the tube issue.
    But she reiterated that she did not rely on the tube intelligence to make the 2002 decision to authorize force against Iraq.
    "The intelligence that caused me to vote in favor of authorizing the use of force was not Saddam's nuclear program, but his biological program," Wilson said in the written statement this week.
    Wilson said she personally asked now-former CIA director George Tenet how confident he was about some "critical" information concerning a potential Iraqi biological threat, and he had told her, "very confident."
    The U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, now in its fourth year, did not turn up stockpiles of any weapons of mass destruction— biological, chemical or nuclear.
    Wilson, in a May 2003 Journal story concerning prewar intelligence, maintained that "no intelligence was incorrect."
    She said in her written remarks this week that, at the time of that 2003 story, "We did not know who was right— the CIA or the nuclear enrichment experts— with respect to the aluminum tubes."
    In an October 2002 congressional statement outlining the reasons behind her decision to authorize the use of force, Wilson made four references to an Iraqi nuclear weapons program.
    When asked this week why she repeatedly referred to such a program in that statement if she had doubts about the intelligence, Wilson in her written reply said:
    "There is only one sentence in my four-page statement that talks about nuclear weapons alone ... . The rest of the statement refers to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs collectively."