WASHINGTON -- The Central Intelligence Agency had secret reports about the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro case but indicated otherwise to the Justice Department and federal prosecutors.
The CIA blamed "an honest mistake" and said the reports were later relayed.
A bank trial involving the Italian bank's Atlanta branch has raised questions in Congress about the administration's role in the transactions when Washington was seeking closer relations with the Iraqi government.
A letter to prosecutors last month stated that the CIA had only publicly available information on the scandal. The letter did not disclose that it had received classified reports on the matter.
|No Intent to Mislead'
But CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the statement was incomplete and should have noted that the agency had additional information.
"There was no intent to mislead," he said. "It was the result of an honest mistake and a record system that is somewhat less than perfect."
He said that when additional information had been found, it was turned over to the Justice Department.
Report Due by Yearend
Mr. Mansfield added that CIA chief Robert Gates had asked the agency's inspector general to review the affair and report back by yearend.
"I think it's about time that the CIA admitted they have not been completely forthcoming," said Sen. David Boren, D-Okla., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I am glad that there has been an admission of misinformation from the CIA. That's a good start."
But Sen. Boren said he was troubled by the CIA's delay in handing over documents. He said the Intelligence Committee would look into the agency's performance to ensure it had not been "manipulated" by the Justice Department or others in the administration.
The Atlanta branch of Lavoro made billions of dollars of loans to Iraq, fueling its industrialization program. The bank's activities were uncovered in 1989.
The Washington administration has denied any political interference in the case.