The report, made public on Sunday, provides a critical analysis of information provided by Islamic radical and bin Laden associate Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who told US captors that al-Qaeda operatives had received training from Iraq in manufacturing poisons and deadly chemical agents.
But US military intelligence officers with the Defence Intelligence Agency did not find the information credible, according to its assessment, and concluded that al-Libi lacked “specific details on the Iraqis involved, the… materials associated with the assistance and the location where training occurred”.
“It is possible,” the document went on to say, “he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers.”
The DIA suggested al-Libi, who had been under interrogation for several weeks, “may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest.”
Despite the warning, US President George W Bush eight months later went public with charges that Saddam Hussein’s government had trained members of the terrorist network in how to make poisonous gases and poisons.
Then-secretary of state Colin Powell repeated the assertions in February 2003 in a speech to the United Nations Security Council in which he outlined the US rationale for military action against Iraq.
In the speech, he accused Iraq of hiding tonnes of chemical and biological weapons and nurturing nuclear ambitions, and even referred to al-Libi’s testimony although did not name him.
“I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to Al-Qaeda,” he said at the time.
Mr Powell has since said that he regrets voicing many of the charges contained in that speech.
Democrats who pushed for the release of the report said it provides vital proof that the government’s argument before the war was flawed.
“This newly declassified information provides additional, dramatic evidence that the administrations pre-war statements were deceptive,” said Democrat Carl Levin, part of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which led the push for declassification.
Senate Democrats are stepping up pressure on their Republican colleagues to try to force them to complete a second report on pre-war intelligence that would focus on whether members of the Bush administration had misused or intentionally misinterpreted intelligence findings.
Top Senate Democrat Jay Rockefeller said the al-Libi case Libi illustrates the need to look into how pre-war intelligence was used.
“He’s an entirely unreliable individual upon whom the White House was placing substantial intelligence trust,” he said.
“And that is a classic example of a lack of accountability to the American people.”
Al-Libi formally recanted last year, according to congressional officials.