Friday, July 09, 2004

Transcriptions Released Senators Pat Roberts (Repugnicrat from Kansas)and Jay Rockefeller (Democrat from West Virginia) speaking at a press conference during the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report. These findings speak for themselves. 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.
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