|News and opinions on situation in Iraq|
|09/07/04||Transcript: Senate Intelligence Committee Report Released|
Friday, July 9, 2004; 12:07 PM
Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) speak to the media on the release of a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the pre-war intelligence efforts on Iraq. Here is a transcript of their news conference.
ROBERTS: Good morning, and thank you for coming. Senator Rockefeller and I want to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to hear our statement.
I will make a statement. I will turn to my distinguished vice chairman at that time. And then we’ll open it up to questions.
A year ago, the Senate Committee on Intelligence made a commitment to the Congress and the American people that we should examine the quality and the quantity of intelligence that led to the war in Iraq.
Now, the debate over many aspects of the U.S. liberation of Iraq will likely continue for decades, but one fact is now clear: Before the war, the U.S. intelligence community told the president, as well as the Congress and the public, that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and if left unchecked would probably have a nuclear weapon during this decade.
Well, today we know these assessments were wrong. And, as our inquiry will show, they were also unreasonable and largely unsupported by the available intelligence.
ROBERTS: The report the committee is releasing today seeks to explain how that happened.
And I want the American people to know — we both want the American people to know that the committee’s 12-month inquiry into the U.S. intelligence community’s prewar assessments with regard to Iraq is without precedent in the history of the committee. The committee has looked behind the intelligence community’s assessments to evaluate not only the quantity and quality of the intelligence upon which it has based those assessments, but also whether or not those assessments themselves were reasonable.
The report contains a detailed and a meticulous recitation of the intelligence reporting and the evolution of the analyses. From the details, a report emerges that is very critical of the intelligence community’s performance. This has not been a pleasant task, but it is based on fact.
Now, while criticism is never easy to accept, I think professionals understand the need for self-examination. And let me emphasize the men and women of the intelligence community are, first and foremost, true and dedicated professionals.
Now, this report is long in detail. I encourage all of you to take the time to digest as much of it as you can. Obviously, while it is too large for either one of us to summarize, I can point out some of the highlights.
First of all, most of the key judgments in the October 2002 national intelligence estimate on Iraq’s WMD programs were either overstated or were not supported by the raw intelligence reporting.
Here are some examples of statements from the key judgments.
ROBERTS: ”Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear program. Iraq has chemical and biological weapons. Iraq was developing an unmanned aerial vehicle, a UAV, probably intended to deliver biological warfare agents. And all key aspects, research and development and production, of Iraq’s offensive biological weapons program are active, and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War.”
Now, these are very emphatic statements. Simply put, they were not supported by the intelligence which the community supplied to the committee, and they should not have been included in the NIE.
Second, in the committee’s view, the intelligence community did not accurately or adequately explain the uncertainties behind the judgments in the October 2002 national intelligence estimate to policy-makers, both in the executive branch and here on Capitol Hill.
Intelligence analysts are charged with interpreting and assessing the intelligence reporting and with clearly conveying to policy-makers the difference between what they know, what they don’t know, what they think, and then making sure that the policy-makers understand that difference. As the report details, they did not do this with respect to the October 2002 NIE.
Third, the committee concluded that the intelligence community was suffering from what we call a collective group-think, which led analysts and collectors and managers to presume that Iraq had active and growing WMD programs. This group-think caused the community to interpret ambiguous evidence, such as the procurement of dual-use technology, as conclusive evidence of the existence of WMD programs.
ROBERTS: While we did not specifically address it in our report, it is clear that this group-think also extended to our allies and to the United Nations and several other nations as well, all of whom did believe the Saddam Hussein had active WMD programs. This was a global intelligence failure.
Fourth, the committee concluded that in a few significant instances the analysis in the NIE suffered what we call a layering effect. Assessments were built or were based on previous judgments without carrying forward the uncertainty of those judgments. This is what we have termed the intelligence assumption train.
Layering is a necessary tool for analysts; there’s no question about that. However, if ongoing underlying questions and uncertainties are not incorporated into the subsequent intelligence products, then the subsequent assessment can, unbeknownst to the policy-maker, become increasingly inaccurate. In other words, the assumption train simply becomes longer.
Fifth, the committee concluded there was a failure by intelligence community managers to adequately encourage analysts to challenge their assumptions, to fully consider alternative arguments, to accurately characterize intelligence reporting and to counsel analysts who had lost their objectivity.
Sixth, the committee concluded that there were significant shortcomings on almost every aspect of the intelligence community’s human intelligence collection efforts against the Iraqi WMD target.
Most alarmingly, after 1998 and the exit of the U.N. inspectors, the CIA had no human intelligence sources inside Iraq who were collecting against the WMD target.
ROBERTS: In addition to this lack of good source reporting, the CIA did not share its sensitive human intelligence reporting.
Most, if not all, of these problems stem from the broken corporate culture and poor management and cannot be solved by simply adding funding and also personnel.
Seventh, the committee concluded the CIA abused its unique position in the intelligence community to the detriment of this nation’s prewar analysis in regards to Iraq’s WMD programs. In a number of cases, the CIA sequestered significant reportable intelligence and prevented information from being shared with all- source analysts at other intelligence agencies.
This problem also plagued the terrorism analysts, as they examined Iraq’s links to terrorists.
But with respect to Saddam Hussein’s regime and his link to terrorists, the committee did find that the CIA judgments were reasonable, based on the available intelligence. The agency was also more careful to inform policy-makers about uncertainties with their analysis.
Finally, the committee found no evidence that the intelligence community’s mischaracterization or exaggeration of intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities was the result of politics or pressure.
In the end, what the president and the Congress used to send the country to war was information that was provided by the intelligence community and that information was flawed.
Well, the question now is where do we go from here? As I have said before, this report cries out for reform. However, it is incumbent on the committee and the Congress to think responsibly and carefully about the most effective reforms. We must base whatever recommendations we ultimately make on the facts and considered judgment, not on expediency or media-generated momentum.
ROBERTS: I intend — we intend for the committee to examine closely all proposals for change, keeping in mind that we should, first, do no harm and avoid as best we can the law of unintended consequences.
Congress should not legislate change merely for the sake of change. We should really direct our actions only against identifiable problems that lend themselves to legislative solutions.
With these thoughts in mind, we intend to work with the executive branch, with our counterparts in the House of Representatives and, yes, with the people who are doing good work in the intelligence community to construct an intelligence capability worthy of this great nation and the men and women who perform this difficult and often dangerous work.
A final thought before I turn to Vice Chairman Rockefeller — and let me say at this point, Jay, I want to thank you for your perseverance and your dedication and your untiring efforts as we went through difficult times to get this report done. I said it would take six months and then nine months and then a year. And we both worked very hard together. And we reported this report — or we voted to approve it by a unanimous vote, and then we also reported it by a unanimous vote. That would not have happened without the cooperation and the dedication, the hard work and the teamwork that we have been able to achieve together. And so I thank you for this, sir.
In my years on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have traveled around the world and met many of the brave, hard-working men and women of the intelligence community who at times risked their lives to keep us safe. They are dedicated. They are selfless patriots doing their level best to protect each and every one of us.
They are, however, in my view, hampered by a flawed system that does not allow them to do their best work or allow us to get the most value out of that work. We need to honor their toil and sacrifices by giving them an intelligence community worthy of their efforts. This we intend to do, and we will.
ROCKEFELLER: Thank you, Chairman Roberts.
Somebody has a little machine here and you take your choice between a very loud noise when I knock it off or I can put it here.
ROCKEFELLER: And if the owner of that machine doesn’t object, I will proceed.
There is simply no question that mistakes leading up to the war in Iraq rank among the most devastating losses and intelligence failures in the history of the nation. The fact is that the administration, at all levels — and to some extent us — used bad information to bolster its case for war. And we in Congress would not have authorized that war — we would not have authorized that war with 75 votes if we knew what we know now.
Leading up to September 11, our government didn’t connect the dots. In Iraq, we are even more culpable because the dots themselves never existed.
Tragically, the intelligence failures set forth in this report will affect our national security for generations to come. Our credibility is diminished. Our standing in the world has never been lower. We have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before.
I wanted to add some remarks about the report and about Chairman Roberts — about the specifics of the report. And I need to tell you that the report — 511 pages — is absolutely outstanding.
ROCKEFELLER: It is a tribute to the staff. It is a tribute to Chairman Roberts. And as he was kind in saying some things about me, I will do the same with him, because they deserve to be said.
We had disagreements and differences, but we worked through them. We worked through them because we understood what was at the end of all of this and what the stakes were, which is the very security of the nation.
We kept the investigation moving forward. Nobody would have ever guessed that there would have been a unanimous vote on the report, and to report the report to the Senate, but it was there.
That’s not to say that there aren’t areas of disagreement; there are, especially on the question of whether the administration pressured the intelligence community to reach predetermined, in my judgment, conclusions.
And I have to say, that there is a real frustration over what is not in this report, and I don’t think was mentioned in Chairman Roberts’ statement, and that is about the — after the analysts and the intelligence community produced an intelligence product, how is it then shaped or used or misused by the policy-makers?
Because there is a wall between the world of intelligence collecting, analyzing, producing, then a wall, and then comes the decision of the policy-makers, based upon what has to be thoroughly honest and accurate reporting insofar as that is possible.
And Chairman Roberts pointed out that sometimes it is not possible and, therefore, you have to put in what is uncertain about what you have reported, what your doubts are, what others in the analytical community’s doubts might have been, what another intelligence agency’s doubts might have been. That’s very critical that policy-makers get those doubts as well as your intelligence conclusions and product.
ROCKEFELLER: So again there’s genuine frustration — and Chairman Roberts and I have discussed this many times — that virtually everything that has to do with the administration has been relegated to phase two. My hope is that we will get this done as soon as possible.
Yet even with those disagreements, the report is absolutely first-rate. Our investigation was objective. Our findings are detailed. And the conclusions are devastating.
We found the intelligence judgments regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destructions were not supported by the underlying intelligence, and here my words will parallel in many respects what Chairman Roberts has said.
They were not supported by underlying intelligence. The judgments overstated what analysts knew and then failed to explain the uncertainty or uncertainties behind those judgments. In other words, the judgments with the caveat of “We generally feel this way, but there are those in the State Department, Department of Energy, whatever, who feel differently.” Aluminum tubes was an example of that.
The report points out the intelligence community began with a presumption, as Chairman Roberts has said, that Iraq had the weapons, never questioned the assumption that Iraq had the weapons, and viewed virtually every bit of ambiguous information as supporting the fact that the weapons were there.
ROCKEFELLER: I just interrupt myself to point out that the head of UNSCOM, Rolf Ekeus, always had as a theory, and still does, that those so-called weapons of mass destruction — which we are still looking for — were, in fact, left over and simply a result of the 10- year war with Iran, and that all of the rest of it was what U.N. inspectors and others and us tried to find.
Our human intelligence collection, as Pat Roberts has pointed out, was inadequate. Not only did we not have people on the ground after 1998 when the inspectors left, but we relied when they had left too much on the fragmentary reporting from years before, from the early ’90s, from the post-Iran/Iraq War situation and were never able to pin anything down.
Our report found that the intelligence community’s judgments were right on Iraq’s ties to terrorists, which is another way of saying that the administration’s conclusions were wrong, and that is of the relationship — formal relationship, however you want to describe it, between Iraq and Al Qaida, and no evidence existed of Iraq’s complicity or assistance in Al Qaida’s terrorist attacks, including 9/11, which, through the device of Mohammed Atta and others, the debate continues almost up until two months ago, at least on the part of the vice president.
ROCKEFELLER: Our report underscores the need for reforming the intelligence community. I think that what we need to do on that — and there’s a series of things that can be done.
John McLaughlin suggested a couple of them in his June 23rd speech for the security executive just recently; the idea of a five- or six-year appointed term so we remove this whole matter from politics.
Secondly, there’s no question that we have to have what is called a red team. And Chairman Roberts referred to that indirectly and directly at the same time: that we have to have people whose job it is to specifically challenge the assumptions that analysts have come up with.
That is their work, to challenge the assumptions on whether it’s WMD or whether it’s the national intelligence estimate, that there is those who are there who are contrarian analysts, so to speak, to try and pick apart and challenge what those assumptions might be.
I think we need to improve much more in human intelligence, even though good work has been done in the last several years to provide more money for that. Still, the training of a good agent takes five years. I think we have to, as I indicated, mandate the use of red teams.
And then you can get into the broad array of discussions over: Do you have a director of national intelligence who has control of everything? Or do you have a variation of that? Or do you work on a lateral basis to try and improve information sharing throughout the intelligence community as well as within the intelligence community?
The CIA has admitted that their collectors and their analysts are often at odds, and they are trying to improve that.
ROCKEFELLER: But there are a lot of big and little items, some of which can be legislated and some of which cannot be, that we need to do.
Do I feel a sense of frustration, together with Chairman Roberts, that we have not been able to do that because of the weight of 511 pages and the time that that required, which is almost total? Yes. I think we both feel that frustration.
But we’ve got to do it right. We can’t just do it for the sake of doing it, but we’ve got to do it fast.
This business that went on yesterday about threat levels and what’s going to happen at conventions and other things, all of this simply is a way of saying time has run out.
The 9/11 victims have a right to be frustrated — and their families — have a right to be frustrated by the fact that we have not actually come up with and legislated where we could the reforms of intelligence. But we have not been able to do that because of the nature of this report and the investigation required of it and the paucity of our staff, which has to be another intelligence reform, that the nature of the intelligence committee itself changes.
Now, the report does an excellent job of pointing out the intelligence community’s shortcomings. I have to say it is only an incomplete picture of what occurred during the national debate over the decision to invade Iraq.
The report we are releasing today is a first phase of the two- part committee investigation. Regrettably, whereas I consider reform incredibly important, I also consider the nature of the interaction or the pressure or the shaping of intelligence by endless numbers of public statements emanating from all levels high up in the administration, virtually saying that, “Time has run out, you know, mushroom cloud, grave and growing, imminent by some, evidence supports the fact that they are developing their nuclear weapons program” — all the rest of it.
ROCKEFELLER: That whole aspect is being relegated to the second part of our report and I regret that. I felt that we should and could have addressed all of these matters as a single matter, because under the rules of the committee we can do that. But that was not possible and so we moved forward. We’ve moved forward and produced a very good piece of work.
The central issue of how intelligence on Iraq was, in this senator’s opinion, exaggerated by the Bush administration officials was relegated to that second phase, as yet unbegun, of the committee investigation, along with other issues.
We’ve done a little bit of work on the number three guy in the Defense Department, Douglas Feith, part of his alleged efforts to run intelligence past the intelligence community altogether, his relationship with the INC and Chalabi, who was very much in favor with the administration wanting them to come on in. And was he running a private intelligence failure, which is not lawful.
As a result, the committee’s report fails to fully explain the environment of intense pressure in which the intelligence community officials were asked to render judgments on matters relating to Iraq when the most senior officials in the Bush administration had already forcefully and repeatedly stated their conclusions publicly.
ROCKEFELLER: It was clear to all of us in this room who were watching that, and to many others, that they had made up their mind that they were going to go to war. And I believe to this day, and I always have and I’ve said so publicly many times in regretting my vote, that there was a predetermination, even going back to 1998 in a letter to Bill Clinton, saying, “The time for diplomacy has ended and now is the time for the use of military force.”
So the justification for the preemptive invasion of Iraq was: one, that Iraq had stockpiled weapons, chemical and biological; two, that they were actively pursuing a nuclear weapon; three, that Iraq might use its alliances with terrorist organizations, including Al Qaida, to use these weapons to strike at the United States.
And in one part of our report, I believe we used the word “even the use of this in the homeland,” the United States.
Of the first two administration points, the case for invasion, the committee details, as Chairman Roberts has indicated, how these key pillars were not supported and should not have been there. The national intelligence estimate was given to us, at our request — at the request of the Senate Intelligence Committee, about 10 days before the vote came. It was done in three weeks. It was thrown together. It was based upon fragmentary intelligence, ancient intelligence.
And then there was this enormous difference between the classified version, where all kinds of doubts and caveats were included, and then the white paper, which was the unclassified version, which all of a sudden everything moved in one direction toward, “They’ve got them, they’re ready to use them, and watch out.”
ROCKEFELLER: I don’t think that was an accident.
Let me just finish by saying, again, an emphasis on this relentless public campaign prior to the war, which repeatedly characterized the Iraqi weapons program in more ominous and threatening terms than any intelligence would have allowed. In short, we went to war in Iraq based on false claims.
So in conclusion, during a critical time in our nation’s history, 18-month period spanning the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, to the invasion of Iraq on March 20th, 2003, the credibility of the intelligence community, which is the spear tip of all actions, and particularly under a doctrine of preemption, was significantly compromised.
The capable, independent, intelligence community is an essential piece of our national security. Pat Roberts described the incredible work of people doing dangerous work all over the world. If you make one mistake, you’re caught and on the front page. And if you do everything else right, nobody notices.
So the shaping of intelligence and analysis over this year and a half has called into question the basis for America’s military action in Iraq, for some of these decisions to be made in the way they were, to put American men and women in harm’s way, send them into combat, create a dangerous gap in the information the Congress and the American people desperately needed.
ROCKEFELLER: This cannot happen again.
QUESTION: Senator Rockefeller, you talked about — you thought that there was some (OFF-MIKE) in terms of what was classified in the NIE intelligence brief (OFF-MIKE)
And maybe Pat Roberts can comment on this as well.
In a report there’s an extensive section talking about the lack of red teaming and double advocacy here. How do you square in the report and what we’ve heard downstairs (OFF-MIKE) that there was not a (OFF-MIKE) of the intelligence (OFF-MIKE) versus the difference in the white paper and the classified version that was presented to the Senate prior to this?
ROCKEFELLER: Well, first of all, I want to make a very strong point, which I’ve made in the committee quite a lot. This is a community and a town and a group of all of us, which, when there is a difference of opinion, we immediately say “politics.” And when you have a presidential election coming up, you say “politics” twice as quickly. You just make the assumption that legislators can’t think, that nobody has, you know, independent views. Everybody is just guided by the fact that they’re Republicans or Democrats.
I don’t buy that. I think that there are honest policy differences. And in intelligence which is such a discreet world, honest policy differences are real. They are real from time to time between Pat and myself. And it doesn’t have to mean that it’s a matter of politics.
I can say that I wish we had gotten more cooperation from the administration and I think Pat Roberts would say that, too. But it’s not political, it’s a matter of policy. It’s a difference of policy.
So on the fact that the NIE changed so dramatically from its classified to its unclassified form and broke all in one direction toward a much more dangerous scenario, which is what, of course, what the American people got, I think, was highly significant.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) The report states — the unanimous report states no political pressure.
ROBERTS: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: And you are now saying it was political pressure. Then why did you vote for the report?
ROCKEFELLER: That’s me.
Because there are 511 pages in the report. And the vast amount of that report, which covered basically only the prewar intelligence, basically on weapons of mass destruction, was superb.
And we had major disagreements on pressure. And I felt that the definition of pressure was very narrowly drawn in the final report. And that is that, sort of, that if somebody came up to you and you were one of the analysts who had been working on WMD, and they said, “Did anybody tell you that you had to change your point of view?” and the answer was, “No,” well that was the description of pressure.
That’s not my description of pressure. That’s a description of pressure. But another description of pressure is the total ambience of this cascade of ominous statements, which continued really up to the present, about what was going to happen or the relationship between Al Qaida and Iraq, Mohammed Atta and the rest of it.
ROCKEFELLER: So, to me, pressure also can be defined by what else is in our additional views. And that is that George Tenet indicated that he was approached by analysts from the CIA. Going to the director’s office? If you’ve ever done that, it’s, sort of, intimidating.
And they came to him and he said, to relieve the pressure, “Simply don’t answer the question if there is no new information.” But the key phrase there is “to relieve the pressure.” He was agreeing, assenting to the fact that there was.
The ombudsman of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose job it is for people to come to with their complaints, a veteran of many years there, said that the hammering on analysts was greater than he had seen in his 32 years of service to the Central Intelligence Agency, and he was referring to pressure.
And the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Robert Kerr (ph), had a group which did analysis of this within the CIA, and he also came up with the same conclusion, that the pressure was there, it’s always internal to the analysts and it was external in the whole ambience, the whole sense of what the nation was moving toward, what the policy-makers were in fact moving toward, except that we couldn’t discuss that in our report.
ROBERTS: Well, let me respond to that.
I hope to heck there was pressure by the policy-makers. You have to be forward-leaning. We just went through 9/11. We were very forward-leaning. There had been a long history in regards to Iraq and the war against Iran and the war, obviously, against Kuwait in ’91, when we found out they were much further ahead in regards to their nuclear program.
ROBERTS: You know, you can define pressure any way you want. But I think the debate in the committee largely centered around whether or not there were repetitive questions.
And that’s a job of a policy-maker to ask repetitive questions. As a matter of fact, when they asked the repetitive questions, we got a better product in regards to the section in regards to terrorism. They were pretty reasonable about that and there were repetitive questions. There were not repetitive questions in regard to the WMD section and as a result, we got a product that was flawed.
I must say that in regards to all of the talk about the public statements by those in the administration, i.e., the policy-makers, making very declarative and positive comments, even aggressive comments, I know about that. Everybody read about that. But those of us in the Congress, some of which who are the most severe critics, made the same comments back in ’98, ’99, 2000.
I urge them to read their own comments in regards to the severity and the possibility of the fact that Iraq had WMD and that we had to use the military action. So I think it cuts both ways.
Read the report. I do not think there is any evidence of undue pressure on any analyst. Repeatedly, I asked as chairman in public and in the committee if anybody felt pressured, more especially in terms of politics, let me know. Only one individual ever raised his hand and it was about Cuba and it was a completely different kind of thing.
So if you think that repetitive questions by policy-makers and those of us in the Congress — I must say that some of the people who are complaining about pressure who serve on our committee and the Armed Services Committee and every committee, you’ve seen us ask all sorts of witnesses various questions. Sometimes we don’t even give them an opportunity to respond. Most of them, you know, perform very well.
That’s the job of a policy-maker and most analysts — all analysts know that.
ROBERTS: So from my standpoint, I do not believe think there was any political pressure.
Now, was the WMD section wrong? You bet. And I think that’s the bottom line.
Read the report, and I think we — and then we have an honest difference of opinion.
But let me say again, there are those of us in the Congress who made very declarative and aggressive statements based on this same NIE report. Now, were we pressured? I don’t know.
You know, I believed it. You know, I believed it in regards to the mobile labs. I believed it in regards to UAVs. I believed it in regards to the aluminum tubes. All of that. It proved out wrong.
And so part of this effort is it took us a year to get beyond these facts to dig into the assessments, and you see the size of the report. So it took us a whole year of oversight to get to the bottom of this in regards to whether or not it was accurate.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) assessment there was no evidence proving Iraqi complicity or assistance in an Al Qaida attack, no evidence since then, no information emerging that Saddam tried to employ Al Qaida in conducting terrorist attacks. And you said that this view was circulating among the highest levels of the administration.
In light of statements like the president saying that Al Qaida is an ally of Saddam, do you think that the administration misled, in both public or private statements to you, the association between Al Qaida…
ROBERTS: No, I think what they were trying to find out is three things. Number one, was Al Qaida — or was Saddam Hussein providing safe haven for the Al Qaida? Secondly, were there efforts to train or to become involved or to have contact with Al Qaida? And then the last one, of course, was there any operational plans? And then one other that we were very interested in, and that is, if we went to war or if we conducted any military operation, would any message be sent to Al Qaida to start a war in other parts of the world?
The terrorism section I think is very reasonable. I think, obviously, you are reading Senator Levin’s press release there.
QUESTION: I’m reading (OFF-MIKE)
ROBERTS: OK. Fine. One of the ones that’s not redacted. That’s good. All right.
ROBERTS: I don’t think they were misled, no. It’s very reasonable. It gives some caveats.
ROBERTS: And I think school is still out in regards to — there’s no question that Mr. Zarqawi was in Baghdad. Now, was there any operational assistance, was there any training specifically? We don’t know.
So I’m not — I don’t agree with that statement.
QUESTION: Given the 800 American G.I.s who have lost their lives so far, thousands have had serious injuries, lost limbs, all on the basis of false claims, as much as the American taxpayers have had to kick in almost $200 billion, doesn’t the American public and the relatives of people who lost their lives have a right to know before the next election whether this administration handled intelligence matters adequately and made statements that were justified — before the election, not after the election?
ROBERTS: Well, as Senator Rockefeller has alluded to, this is in phase two of our efforts. We simply couldn’t get that done with the work product that we put out. And he has pointed out that that has a top priority. It is one of my top priorities. It’s his top priority, along with the reform effort.
Now, we have 20 legislative days. We want to have hearings from wise men and women in regards to the reform effort, and we will proceed with staff on phase two of the report. It involves probably three things — or at least three.
One is the prewar intelligence on Iraq, which is what you’re talking about.
Secondly is the situation with the assistant secretary of defense, Douglas Feith, and his activity in regards to material that he provided with a so-called intelligence planning cell to the Department of Defense and to the CIA.
And then the left one — what is the last one? What’s the third one? Help me with it.
ROBERTS: Well, that’s prewar intelligence on Iraq.
There is a third one, and I don’t know why I can’t come up with it right now. But, anyway, it is a priority.
And, hey, I have told Jay, I have told everybody on the other side of the aisle, everybody on our side of the aisle, “We’ll proceed with phase two. It is a priority.”
ROBERTS: I made my commitment, and it will be done.
ROCKEFELLER: I have one comment I need to make, and that is that if we’re serious about doing intelligence reforms, why do we have to be somehow limited by the fact that the leadership in the Senate and the House are saying that we’re out of here after 20 legislative days?
We could work through August. We can work through September. We can come back after the election. We routinely did that in previous years, often working up until December 22nd.
This is the most dangerous moment in American history, the most devastating event in American history was 9/11. And the thought that somehow we can’t get this done before the end of the year simply escapes me as an adequate rationale to honor the families of those who died and to protect the families and people who are still living, but may be in a lot more danger.
ROBERTS: I’d just say that the focus was on the NIE report of 2002. That’s what that report’s about.
We will continue with our work with phase two. I’ve made that commitment. I don’t know if we can get members back over the various breaks. When I mentioned the 20 legislative days, it was more to the approach that would we consider specific reforms, I think we have to have hearings first to educate the committee and really be careful with that, but we are committed to finishing phase two.
QUESTION: Knowing what you know now about the intelligence on Iraq, would you, Senator Roberts, have authorized the use of force in Iraq? And secondly, do you have confidence that John McLaughlin can lead the CIA?
ROBERTS: We’ll take the last one first.
ROBERTS: Both Jay and I and the members of the committee have worked with the assistant director at length. He’s very well qualified.
But I think that there is a feeling in the administration and shared by some of us that feel at this very crucial crossroads time that it would be appropriate for the administration to go through the work necessary to find an extraordinary candidate that could receive support from both sides of the aisle so that we would have a director.
That is up to the administration. And I think — I had thought, as a matter of fact, that they would make their minds up by the end of this week. Although I think that’s still being considered.
But John McLaughlin is a good man. And he’s very well versed, and acting in his role as the acting director has been helpful to the degree that we’ve been able to press back on the redaction efforts. And have made progress, and will continue to work with him.
As far as my vote, in regards to authorize of war, I think the war would have been different. I think it would have been based more on something like Kosovo or Bosnia.
President Clinton indicated we should have certainly intervened in regard to Rwanda. You can make the same case, if you go back several decades, to Cambodia. You can make the same case in World War II in regards to the Holocaust.
I stood on a hill, in a place called Hilla in Iraq, where there was a grave site that contained 18,000 bodies that were being unearthed one by one. And it was a very, a very tragic moment. It made me think about man’s inhumanity to man. The families of these victims were standing aside and their grief was very evident by their wailing and all of that that involves such a tragedy.
Well, you multiply that up to about 500,000. And then you look back and say to — I don’t know how many more resolutions the U.N. would have to pass in regards to a humanitarian intervention, but whether or not that kind of military intervention that we conducted would have been conducted, but, yes, I think the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein.
ROBERTS: All of the current government — Prime Minister Allawi has said time and time again, thank you, thank you to the coalition forces for removing Saddam Hussein.
So I think it would have been argued differently. I think perhaps that the battle plan would be different. I think it would have been on a comparison to, say, Bosnia and Kosovo. But, yes, I think I would have voted that way.
ROCKEFELLER: Can I make a comment? I find it interesting that we have — neither Chairman Roberts nor myself, except through the use of the word “Al Qaida,” have said anything about the war on terrorism for approximately one hour here. And that was always and remains, was, is and will be our threat.
Yes, I think it’s terrific that Saddam was taken down, brought out of a hole. Has it changed things in Iraq for the better? I’m not sure it’s made any difference. I’m not sure the jury is in on that but I don’t, so far, see any huge difference.
The war on terrorism is in 100 countries including our own: organized, ready, with potentially Osama bin Laden being more back in control than he has been before, as well as Zawahiri and others.
So this is the massive picture. When we argue about whether we should have gone or not have gone into Iraq, the real question is what about the resources — the question you ask, sir, the resources, the staying power of the American people on something which threatens us all for generations to come? Because of the hatred we have brought forth in the Islamic community toward America.
It’s called the war on terrorism. And that is expensive. And that is big. And that’s going to last a long time.
ROBERTS: One more, then we have to leave.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) about George Tenet’s role here in a couple of ways. Number one, how responsible was he specifically for all of the management errors?
ROBERTS: I’d just urge you to read the report. I think it’s very important that we quit looking in the rearview mirror and affixing blame and, you know, pointing fingers.
The former DCI made a statement yesterday, made a statement much earlier than that accepting the responsibility. That isn’t what this report is about.
But it is about trying to inculcate better management practices up and down the entire intelligence community. And that’s what we’re going to try to do in working with the intelligence community in behalf of reform.
QUESTION: Do you think if the vote was held today in Congress on the war it would pass?
ROBERTS: I don’t know. How’s that?
ROCKEFELLER: Can I respond?
ROCKEFELLER: I don’t think it would have. I was in the Democratic leadership at that point and I sat 50 feet or 40 feet directly looking at the president when he gave his second State of the Union address. And it was absolutely powerful, the axis of evil, all of these declarative and absolutist statements, about 45-minute weaponization takeoff possibilities and WMD and, you know, unmanned air vehicles, et cetera, their capacity to do damage. All these were brought forward in such a powerful and potent way.
And I don’t think that he was really speaking to the Congress. I think he was speaking to the American people about WMD, as it turned out. And it was a convincing case. It just happened to be a wrong case.
What I found absolutely extraordinary was that in an interview with, I guess it was Diane Sawyer, sometime later, he said, “Well, no, I guess we didn’t, but so what? They could have. They would have.”
ROCKEFELLER: The fact is they hadn’t. I don’t think Congress would have voted to support the war.
ROBERTS: Well, let me just say this: I think that the president of the United States — and I’m not speaking for him; he can speak for himself, obviously — but he more than anyone knows the value of intelligence. And he more than anyone is going to have very strong support for reform within the intelligence community.
He made very declarative statements, there’s no question about it. He made a case to go to war. We all did. Look at the statements that we’ve all made — some of the people who are now being so terribly critical. We believed it.
But the information was wrong. What he said was what he got from the intelligence community, and what he got was wrong. So he more than anybody, I think, will want to work with us and the House side and the intelligence community to reform the intelligence.
I think that’s probably all the time I have time for, but anyway thank you all for coming.
It’s extremely important. We gave, I gave the CIA a suggested timetable and deadline about a month and a half ago of two weeks to get back to us. And we, meaning the staff — and I really want to thank the staff, I want to thank Jackie (ph), and Tom, and Rebecca (ph), and the other seven members — and I’m leaving some out — but they did splendid work, outstanding work — and the others.
And we did a good job of what we thought was containing information that the public has the right to know.
ROBERTS: Now, on behalf of national security, if you are a person in charge of classification of the CIA, you have national security as your paramount interest. But in terms of this unique situation, we believe that the American people had a right to know. And that is paramount.
And so, we had quite a bit of feeling about this, as we suggested that this report — all of it — should be made public.
At the first effort, about half of it was redacted. We immediately went back and gave them another week to come back.
And now I can’t give you percentages. And percentages are misleading, because in some areas you might have 75 percent redacted, and in other areas, maybe 10 percent. And so basically we made progress.
Now, then Senator Rockefeller and I listed the things that we felt, on top of staff, should be made public. And we’ve been able to do that, and it is reflected in our statements, at least to the extent that we’ve made some progress.
We’re not giving up. We will continue to work with the CIA to make sure the American people have as much as possible.
Now, on the other side of it is if there is something that the CIA can prove to us that is relevant in regards to endangering names and places and sources, international security, obviously we’re going to err on the side of national security. That point has not been reached, so we will continue our efforts with the CIA.
Thank you very much.