Frist Rebuts Report that Claims Iraq War Fuels Terror


Sept. 24, 2006 — -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he had not seen the classified National Intelligence Estimate that reportedly alleges that the Iraq war has worsened the problem of terrorism throughout the world, but suggested terrorism is a problem that transcends the Iraq war.

"It's a classified report and I haven't read it," Frist told ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" in an exclusive appearance, quickly adding, "This war on terror is more than just Iraq, is more than just Afghanistan."

The New York Times reports in its Sunday edition, "[The National Intelligence Estimate] has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks."

When questioned about the Times article, Frist called Iraq the "central front in the war on terror," telling Stephanopoulos, "It's a movement that we're against, it's not just a war in Iraq.

"I think Americans … understand that this war is big," Frist added, "and either we are going to be fighting this battle, this war overseas, or it's going to be right here in this country."

Frist said the National Intelligence Estimate, presented to the country's top intelligence agencies and completed in April, has not been given to the Senate.

"It hasn't been given to me," he said, adding that he did not know if it had been presented to other senators. "Right now, it has not been presented to me."

Frist said although he did not know the contents of the report firsthand, he opposes its release to the public "if it means giving the terrorists a playbook."

On another subject, Frist backed the terror detainee agreement struck this week between President Bush and several members of his own party. Some Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., rejected the president's initial proposal, which would have revised the Geneva Conventions to withhold classified evidence from suspects at trial and, more significantly, did not address interrogation tactics such as water boarding that some deem harsh or inhumane.

"The good news is that we've come to an agreement, a broad agreement," Frist told ABC News.

Just last week, such an agreement seemed far off. In an exclusive appearance on "This Week" last Sunday, McCain argued, "This is a matter or conscience, an American conscience," later asking rhetorically, "Are we going to be like the enemy, or are we going to be the United States of America?"

Some critics have charged, however, that the new agreement does not specifically ban some of the tactics McCain and others seemed to oppose. Frist disagreed.

"It's very clear, based on this legislation, what can be done, what can't be done," he said.

When pressed by Stephanopoulos, ABC News' chief Washington correspondent, on which techniques had been banned and which are still allowed under the new agreement, Frist insisted, "Right now, it's very clear."

But he added, "If we give the playbook to the enemy, to the terrorists themselves, they'll simply train themselves against those techniques and be able to resist.

"I'm not going to comment on individual techniques; it helps the terrorists," he said. "It helps the terrorists who are going to come and try and assassinate us and the people listening to us right now."

Frist predicted the Senate will pass the terror detainee legislation before it breaks for the 2006 midterm elections.

Stephanopoulos' entire interview with Frist can be viewed at "This Week's" Web page at

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