Skip to comments.Transcript: CIA Director Defends Iraq Intelligence
Posted on 02/05/2004 1:31:58 PM PST by Kaslin
CIA Director George Tenet gave a speech at Georgetown University on Thursday. The transcript follows.
TENET: I have come here today to talk to you and to the American people about something important to our nation and central to our future: how the United States intelligence community evaluated Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs over the past decade, leading to a national intelligence estimate in October of 2002. I want to tell you about our information and how we reached our judgments. I want to tell you what I think, honestly and directly.
There's several reasons to do this: because the American people deserve to know, because intelligence has never been more important to the security of our country.
As a nation we have, over the past seven years, been rebuilding our intelligence with powerful capabilities that many thought we would no longer need after the Cold War. We have been rebuilding our clandestine service, our satellite and other technical collection, our analytical depth and expertise.
Both here and around the world, the men and women of American intelligence are performing courageously, often brilliantly, to support our military, to stop terrorism and to break up networks of proliferation.
The risks are always high. Success and perfect outcomes are never guaranteed. But there's one unassailable fact: We will always call it as we see it. Our professional ethic demands no less.
TENET: To understand a difficult topic like Iraq takes patience and care. Unfortunately, you rarely hear a patient, careful or thoughtful discussion of intelligence these days. But these times demand it because the alternative -- politicized, haphazard evaluation, without the benefit of time and facts -- may well result in an intelligence community that is damaged and a country that is more at risk.
Before talking about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, I want to set the stage with a few words about intelligence collection and analysis, how they actually happen in a real world. This context is completely missing from the current debate.
By definition, intelligence deals with the unclear, the unknown, the deliberately hidden. What the enemies of the United States hope to deny we work to reveal.
The question being asked about Iraq in the starkest terms is, were we right or were we wrong? In the intelligence business, you are almost never completely wrong or completely right.
That applies in full to the question of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. And like many of the toughest intelligence challenges, when the facts of Iraq are all in, we will neither be completely right nor completely.
TENET: As intelligence professionals, we go to where the information takes us. We fear no fact or finding, whether it bears us out or not. Because we work for high goals -- the protection of the American people -- we must be judged by high standards.
Let's turn to Iraq. Much of the current controversy centers on our prewar intelligence, summarized in the national intelligence estimate of October of 2002.
National estimates are publications where the intelligence community as a whole seeks to sum up what we know about a subject, what we don't know, what we suspect may be happening and where we differ on key issues.
This estimate asked if Iraq had chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. We concluded that in some of these categories Iraq had weapons, and that in others where it did not have them, it was trying to develop them.
Let me be clear: Analysts differed on several important aspects of these programs and those debates were spelled out in the estimate.
They never said there was an imminent threat. Rather, they painted an objective assessment for our policy-makers of a brutal dictator who was continuing his efforts to deceive and build programs that might constantly surprise us and threaten our interests. No one told us what to say or how to say it.
How did we reach our conclusions? We had three streams of information; none perfect, but each important.
First, Iraq's history. Everyone knew that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons in the 1980s and 1990s. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran and his own people on at least 10 different occasions. He launched missiles against Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
And we couldn't forget that in the early 1990s, we saw that Iraq was just a few years away from a nuclear weapon. This was not a theoretical program. It turned out that we and other intelligence services of the world had significantly underestimated his progress.
And finally, we could not forget that Iraq lied repeatedly about its unconventional weapons.
TENET: So to conclude before the war that Saddam had no interest in rebuilding his weapons of mass destruction programs, we would have had to ignore his long and brutal history of using them.
Our second stream of information was that the United Nations could not and Saddam would not account for all the weapons the Iraqis had: tons of chemical weapons precursors, hundreds of artillery shells and bombs filled with chemical or biological agents.
We did not take this data on face value. We did take it seriously. We worked with the inspectors, giving them leads, helping them fight Saddam's deception strategy of cheat and retreat.
Over eight years of inspections, Saddam's deceptions and the increasingly restrictive rules of engagements U.N. inspectors were forced to negotiate with the regime undermined efforts to disarm him.
To conclude before the war that Saddam had destroyed his existing weapons, we would have had to ignore what the United Nations and allied intelligence said they could not verify.
The third stream of information came after the U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998. We gathered intelligence through human agents, satellite photos and communications intercepts. Other foreign intelligence services were clearly focused on Iraq and assisted in the effort.
In intercepts of conversations and other transactions, we heard Iraqis seeking to hide prohibited items, worrying about their cover stories and trying to procure items Iraq was not permitted to have.
Satellite photos showed a pattern of activity designed to conceal movement of material from places where chemical weapons had been stored in the past. We also saw reconstruction of dual-purpose facilities previously used to make biological weapons or chemical precursors.
And human sources told us of efforts to acquire and hide materials used in the production of such weapons.
And to come to conclusions before the war other than those we reached, we would have had to ignore all the intelligence gathered from multiple sources after 1998.
TENET: Did these strands of information weave into a perfect picture? Could they answer every question? No, far from it. But taken together, this information provided a solid basis on which to estimate whether Iraq did or did not have weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them.
It is important to underline the word "estimate," because not everything we analyze can be known to a standard of absolute proof.
Now, what exactly was in the October estimate? Why did we say it and what does the postwar evidence thus far show?
But before we start, let me be direct about an important fact. As we meet here today, the Iraq Survey Group is continuing its important search for people and data. And despite some public statements, we are nowhere near 85 percent finished. The men and women who work in that dangerous environment are adamant about that fact.
Any call that I make today is necessarily provisional. Why? Because we need more time and we need more data.
So what did our estimates say? Let's start with missile and other delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction.
Our community said with high confidence that Saddam was continuing and expanding his missile programs, contrary to U.N. resolutions. He had missiles and other systems with ranges in excess of U.N. restrictions and he was seeking missiles with even longer ranges.
What do we know today? Since the war we have found an aggressive Iraqi missile program concealed from the international community.
TENET: In fact, David Kay just last fall said that the Iraq Survey Group, quote, "discovered sufficient evidence to date to conclude that the Iraqi regime was committed to delivery system improvements that would have, if Operation Iraqi Freedom had not occurred, dramatically breached U.N. restrictions placed on Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War."
We have also found that Iraq had plans and advanced design work for a liquid-propellant missile with ranges of up to 1,000 kilometers; activity that Iraq did not report to the U.N. and which could have placed large portions of the Middle East in jeopardy.
We have confirmed that Iraq had new work under way on prohibited solid-propellant missiles that were also concealed from the United Nations.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
Huh? How did he justify that claim? What an odd thing to say. I think Kay is the one that comes off looking rather poorly after Tenet's speech.
Tenet's speech will run again on C-SPAN tonight, 8:00 p.m. eastern time for anyone that would like to hear it. It's well worth the hour.
That doesn't work with WMDs, because how much resources do you need before you stop imagining something that's not there?
Failure used to mean that you got fired. Now it means that we give you more resources. None Dare Call It Spin.