Transcript: Senate Intelligence Committee Report Released
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, youíve seen us ask all sorts of witnesses various questions. Sometimes we donít even give them an opportunity to respond. Most of them, you know, perform very well.
Thatís 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 thatís 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 donít 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 Levinís press release there.
QUESTION: Iím reading (OFF-MIKE)
ROBERTS: OK. Fine. One of the ones thatís not redacted. Thatís good. All right.
ROBERTS: I donít think they were misled, no. Itís very reasonable. It gives some caveats.
ROBERTS: And I think school is still out in regards to -- thereís no question that Mr. Zarqawi was in Baghdad. Now, was there any operational assistance, was there any training specifically? We donít know.
So Iím not -- I donít 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, doesnít 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 couldnít 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. Itís 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 youíre 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? Whatís the third one? Help me with it.
ROBERTS: Well, thatís prewar intelligence on Iraq.
There is a third one, and I donít know why I canít 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, "Weíll 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 weíre 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 weíre 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 canít 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: Iíd just say that the focus was on the NIE report of 2002. Thatís what that reportís about.
We will continue with our work with phase two. Iíve made that commitment. I donít 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: Weíll take the last one first.
ROBERTS: Both Jay and I and the members of the committee have worked with the assistant director at length. Heís 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 thatís still being considered.
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