A May 28 article on President Bush's commission investigating U.S. intelligence capabilities incorrectly identified one of the panel's members. The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is Charles M. Vest, not George Vest. (Published 5/29/04)
President Bush's commission investigating the quality of U.S. intelligence concluded its first two days of closed-door hearings yesterday after taking testimony from more than 20 current and former intelligence officials who discussed programs to produce weapons of mass destruction in prewar Iraq and in other countries.
This week's sessions, which included the informal questioning of witnesses, were the first of what are planned to be similar monthly meetings as the nine-member panel explores not just the intelligence failures of the past but also how best to meet the threats of the future.
Bush established the panel in February at the height of criticism over the failure to find Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, which had been publicly declared by the administration as the main reason for removing the Iraqi dictator from power. The panel is scheduled to submit its report and recommendations next March. The Senate and House intelligence committees will produce their reports this year on the intelligence failures associated with the Iraqi weapons program.
The panel -- officially called the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction -- focused yesterday on the weapons programs of North Korea, Libya and other countries, and the session included a discussion of intelligence-collection practices. The other countries covered reportedly included Iran, Pakistan and India.
Wednesday's discussion concerned Iraq and a controversial October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). It concluded that Hussein's government had chemical and biological weapons and had reconstituted its nuclear program.
The witness lists were not officially disclosed, but a senior intelligence official said they included four senior CIA analysts who are national intelligence officers (NIOs) and were the main authors of the October NIE. They were retired Army Maj. Gen. John R. Landry, NIO for military issues; Paul R. Pillar, NIO for the Near East and South Asia; Robert Walpole, NIO for weapons of mass destruction and proliferation; and Lawrence K. Gershwin, who was NIO for science and technology and now deals with intelligence assurance.
The commissioners on Wednesday also heard from former chief U.S. weapons hunter David Kay, who had been appointed by CIA Director George J. Tenet to direct the weapons search of the Pentagon's Iraq Survey Group. In December, Kay announced that he did not believe chemical or biological weapons would be found, and said he has concluded that the Iraq nuclear program was in rudimentary form.
The commission released a statement by its co-chairmen, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Laurence H. Silberman and former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.), which said: "Due to the sensitive nature of our work, which concerns highly classified matters of national security, these meetings are not open to the public."
Other commission members are Richard Levin, president of Yale University; George Vest, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.); Lloyd Cutler, White House counsel of presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter; retired Adm. William Studeman, former deputy director of the CIA; Patricia Wald, former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; and Henry S. Rowen, chairman of the National Intelligence Council during the Reagan administration.