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.
© 2004 FDCH E-Media