A presidential commission says American intelligence services know little about threats from many of the world's most dangerous nations. President Bush named the commission to investigate intelligence failures involving Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
The bipartisan commission says U.S. intelligence agencies were, in its words, "dead wrong" in almost all of their pre-war judgments about Iraqi chemical and biological weapons.
The perceived immediate threat from those weapons was President Bush's biggest justification for invading Iraq two years ago. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, no such weapons have been found.
While other nations' intelligence services also believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the commission says it was the United States that put its credibility on the line, making this one of the most public and damaging intelligence failures in recent history.
Those failures were an issue in last year's presidential campaign, with opposition Democrats accusing the president's team of politicizing intelligence reports to justify the Iraqi invasion.
The commission's unanimous conclusion found no evidence of political interference and says the failures were largely a result of the inability to collect good information and make clear which conclusions were based on good information, and, which were based on assumptions.
Calling the report a sharp critique, President Bush said he shares its central conclusions: "America's intelligence community needs fundamental change to enable us to successfully confront the threats of the 21st Century."
President Bush met with commission members at the White House, and discussed some of their recommendations, including broader powers for the new director of national intelligence and sharper questioning for intelligence officers about how they reach conclusions.
Today, the report says, U.S. intelligence services still know what it calls disturbingly little about the weapons programs, and even less about the intentions of some of America's most dangerous adversaries.
President Bush says the commission has given his administration useful and important guidance in helping adjust intelligence capabilities to meet the threats of what he calls a dangerous new century: "Our collection and analysis of intelligence will never be perfect, but in an age when our margin for error is getting smaller, in an age in which we are at war, the consequences of underestimating a threat could be tens-of-thousands of innocent lives."
The commission says the intelligence community has not been agile or innovative enough to provide the information the nation needs, and it is calling for a truly integrated, far more imaginative, intelligence service, willing to take risks.