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Former Bush administration officials defend him at Hofstra conference

Former CIA Director Porter J. Gross was among

Former CIA Director Porter J. Gross was among the speakers taking part in the first day of a three-day conference on George W. Bush's presidency at Hofstra University on Tuesday, March 23, 2015. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Former Central Intelligence Agency Director Porter Goss and John Negroponte, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the administration of former President George W. Bush, Tuesday defended the administration's record on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at a conference on the Bush presidency at Hofstra University.

Goss and Negroponte participated in a panel discussion before an audience of about 200 students, scholars and journalists taking part in a three-day conference focused on Bush's two terms in the White House.

Responding to criticism from a panelist about Bush's decision to invade Iraq following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Goss referred to the current threat posed in the region by the Islamic State terrorist group.

"Look what we've got today," Goss said. "Would we have had ISIL 12 years sooner had we not been in Iraq?"

Goss, who served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006, said Bush was "let down" by intelligence indicating that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction -- which Bush cited as a key reason for going to war against Iraq in 2003.

"I don't think the president truly had all of the information that he really needed," Goss said. After 9/11, the administration discovered a "depletion" of CIA resources, including Arabic speaking intelligence officers, Goss said.

Negroponte, director of National Intelligence from 2005 to 2007 and deputy secretary of state from 2007 to 2009, described Bush as an avid "consumer" of daily intelligence briefings.

"Not every president devotes that much attention or concentrated schedule time to absorbing their daily intelligence," Negroponte said.

Panelist Amy Goodman, host of the liberal-leaning radio show "Democracy Now!" asked Negroponte if he believed the U.S. should torture prisoners of war. The Bush administration came under fire over the issue in the wake of a December Senate Intelligence Committee report detailing the CIA's harsh interrogation of terrorist detainees.

Negroponte responded: "Torture is never right."

Goss criticized the committee's report as a "partisan political study" because it was called for by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who serves as vice chairwoman of the committee.

Goodman countered that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), once a prisoner of war in Vietnam, had defended the report, saying the use of torture "damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world."

The conference, organized by the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency and the Hofstra Cultural Center, in conjunction with the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, continues through Thursday with speakers including former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean and former White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

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