Transcript: Senate Intelligence Committee Report Released
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.
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