Transcript: CIA Director Defends Iraq Intelligence
Significantly, the Iraq Survey Group has also confirmed prewar intelligence that Iraq was in secret negotiations with North Korea to obtain some of its most dangerous missile technology.
My provisional bottom line on missiles: We were generally on target.
Let me turn to unmanned aerial vehicles. The estimate said that Iraq had been developing an unmanned aerial vehicle probably intended to deliver biological warfare agents.
Baghdad's existing unmanned aerial vehicle could threaten its neighbors, U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf and, if a small unmanned aerial vehicle was brought close to our shores, the United States itself.
What do we know today?
The Iraq Survey Group found that two separate groups in Iraq were working on a number of unmanned aerial vehicles designed that were hidden from the U.N. until Iraq's declaration in December of 2002. Now we know that important design elements were never fully declared.
The question of intent, especially regarding the smaller unmanned aerial vehicle, is still out there. But we should remember that the Iraqis flight tested an aerial biological weapons spray system intended for a large unmanned aerial vehicle.
A senior Iraqi official has now admit that their two large unmanned vehicles, one developed in the early '90s and the other under development in late 2000, were intended for the delivery of biological weapons.
My provisional bottom line today: We detected the development of prohibited and undeclared unmanned aerial vehicles. But the jury is still out on whether Iraq intended to use its newer, smaller unmanned aerial vehicle to deliver biological weapons.
Let me turn to the nuclear issue.
In the estimate, all agencies agree that Saddam Hussein wanted nuclear weapons. Most were convinced that he still had a program and if he obtained fissile material he could have a weapon within a year.
TENET: But we detected no such acquisition.
We made two judgments that get overlooked these days. We said that Saddam did not have a nuclear weapon and probably would have been unable to make one until 2007 to 2009.
Most agencies believed that Saddam had begun to reconstitute his nuclear program, but they disagreed on a number of issues, such as which procurement activities were designed to support his nuclear program.
But let me be clear: Where there are differences, the estimate laid out the disputes clearly.
So what do we know now? David Kay told us last fall that, quote, "The testimony we have obtained from Iraqi scientists and senior government officials should clear up any doubts about whether Saddam still wanted to obtain nuclear weapons," end of quote.
Keep in mind that no intelligence agency thought that Iraq's efforts had progressed to the point of building an enrichment facility or making fissile material. We said that such activities were a few years away. Therefore it's not surprising that the Iraq Survey Group has not yet found evidence of uranium enrichment facilities.
Regarding prohibited aluminum tubes, a debate laid out extensively in the estimate and one that experts still argue over, were they for uranium enrichment or conventional weapons? We have additional data to collect and more sources to question.
Moreover, none of the tubes found in Iraq so far match the high- specification tubes Baghdad sought and may never have received the amounts needed. Our aggressive interdiction efforts may have prevented Iraq from receiving all but a few of these prohibited items.
My provisional bottom line today: Saddam did not have a nuclear weapon, he still wanted one, and Iraq intended to reconstitute a nuclear program at some point.
We have not yet found clear evidence that the dual-use items Iraq sought were for nuclear reconstitution. We do not yet know if any reconstitution efforts had begun. But we may have overestimated the progress Saddam was making.
Let me turn to biological weapons.
TENET: The estimates said Baghdad had them and that all key aspects of an offensive program -- research and development, production and weaponization -- were still active and most elements were larger and more advanced than before the Gulf War.
We believe that Iraq had lethal biological weapons agents, including anthrax, which it could quickly produce and weaponize for delivery by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers and covert operatives. But we said we had no specific information on the types or quantities of weapons, agent or stockpiles at Baghdad's disposal.
What do we know today? Last fall the Iraqi Survey Group uncovered, quote, "significant information, including research and development of biological weapons, applicable organisms, the involvement of the Iraqi intelligence service in possible biological weapons activities and deliberate concealment activities."
All of this suggests that Iraq, after 1996, further compartmentalized its program and focused on maintaining smaller covert capabilities that could be activated quickly to surge the production of biological weapons agents.
The Iraq Survey Group found a network of laboratories and safe houses controlled by Iraqi intelligence and security services that contained equipment for chemical and biological research and a prison laboratory complex possibly used in human testing for biological weapons agents that were not declared to the United Nations.
It also appears that Iraq had the infrastructure and the talent to resume production, but we have yet to find that it actually did so, nor have we found weapons.
Until we get to the bottom of the role played by the Iraqi security services, which were operating covert labs, we will not know the full extent of the program.
Let me also talk about the trailers discovered in Iraq last summer.
We initially concluded that they resembled trailers described by a human source for mobile biological warfare agent production. There is no consensus within our intelligence community today over whether the trailers were for that use or if they were used for the production of hydrogen.
TENET: Everyone agrees that they are not ideally configured for either process but could be made to work in either mode.
To give you some idea of the contrasting evidence we wrestle with, some of the Iraqis involved in making the trailers were told that they were intended to produce hydrogen for artillery units. But an Iraqi artillery officer says they never used these types of systems and that the hydrogen for artillery units came in canisters from a fixed production facility.
We are trying to get to the bottom of this story.
And I must tell you that we are finding discrepancies in some claims made by human sources about mobile biological weapons production before the war. Because we lack direct access to the most important sources on this question, we have as yet been able to resolve the differences.
My provisional bottom line today: Iraq intended to develop biological weapons. Clearly, research and development work was under way that would have permitted a rapid shift to agent production if seed stocks were available. But we do not yet know if production took place. And just as clearly, we have not yet found biological weapons.
Before I leave the biological weapons story, an important fact that you must consider: For years the U.N. searched unsuccessfully for Saddam's biological weapons program. His son-in-law, Hussein Kamil, who controlled the hidden program, defected and only then was the world able to confirm that Iraq indeed had an active and dangerous biological weapons program.
Indeed, history matters when dealing with these complicated problems. While many of us want instant answers, the search for biological weapons in Iraq will take time and it will take patience.
Let me now turn to chemical weapons.
We said in the estimate with high confidence that Iraq had them. We also believed, though with less certainty, that Saddam had stocked at least 100 metric tons of agent.
That may sound like a lot, but it would fit in a few dorm rooms on this campus. And the last time I remember, they're not very big rooms.
Initially, the community was skeptical about whether Iraq had started chemical weapons agent production. Sources had reported that Iraq had begun renewed production and imagery and intercepts gave us additional concerns. But only when analysts saw what they believed to be satellite photos of shipments of materials from ammunition sites did they believe that Iraq was again producing chemical weapons agents.
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