Much of the prewar intelligence that led to President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003 came from the popular fortune-telling toy known as the Magic 8-Ball, according to documents released today.

As Congress debates the war in Iraq, scrutinizing the prewar roles of such former administration figures as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, the news that a small plastic ball shaped the decision to go to war came as nothing less than a bombshell.

But transcripts obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showing conversations among Messrs. Bush, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and the Magic 8-Ball make it clear that the ball had the deciding vote when it came to the administration’s prewar planning.

At one point in the transcript, Mr. Bush asks the Magic 8-Ball flat out, “Does Saddam Hussein have weapons of mass destruction?”

The ball responded equivocally — “Reply hazy, try again” — prompting the president to repeat his question.

When Mr. Bush asked the question again moments later, the Magic 8-Ball was more definitive: “Signs point to yes.”

At the White House today, spokesman Tony Snow defended the Magic 8-Ball’s role in gathering prewar intelligence but said that the ball had left the administration in 2004 to spend more time with its family.

But in response to a reporter’s question about whether the United States planned to go to war with Iran, Mr. Snow raised eyebrows by responding, “Better not tell you now.”

Elsewhere, the Kansas State Board of Education voted to teach evolution in public schools, with the six human members of the board outvoting the four monkeys.

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