News from Senator Carl Levin of Michigan
March 9, 2004
Contact: Press Office
Phone: 202.228.3685

Opening Statement of Senator Carl Levin at the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing with DCI Tenet & DIA Director Jacoby

Mr. Chairman, I want to join you in welcoming our witnesses to the Committee this morning.

The confidence of the American people and the world community in the assessments of our Intelligence Community depends upon their credibility. That credibility has been badly damaged by the intelligence fiasco relative to the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the war.

The need to examine the intelligence that guided our nation into war with Iraq is essential to avoid future mistakes which could weaken our nation's security, and to re-establish confidence in our intelligence agencies.

The Intelligence Community was so wrong about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction that it understandably raises questions about what they say about other looming issues. For example, what are the prospects of a civil war in Iraq if there is no consensus within Iraq on the entity to which sovereignty will be transferred on July 1 of this year? As members of the Armed Services Committee, we will need to make critical judgments in that event, and we will, hopefully, be soliciting the help of the international community. Owning up to, critically examining and correcting our failures are necessary first steps to assuring ourselves and our allies that our intelligence is objective, of high quality and reliable.

The Intelligence Community told the nation and the world before the war that Saddam Hussein had in his possession stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons; that he was reconstituting his nuclear weapons program; that he had mobile trailers for producing biological agents; that he had small unmanned aerial vehicles intended to deliver biological weapons; and so on.

The nation and the world were told that Saddam was in actual possession of weapons of mass destruction and was producing more. Not just that he intended to get them. Not just that he had a program for weapons of mass destruction, or that he was engaged in "WMD-related program activities." And not just that Saddam Hussein hadn't satisfactorily explained what happened to the weapons of mass destruction that we knew he had after the Gulf War ten years earlier. No: his possession of stocks of weapons of mass destruction was what made the threat so immediately ominous.

Initiating a war on the basis of faulty or exaggerated intelligence is a very serious matter. That's just as true if one supported the war or not. And that's just as true if Iraq ultimately turns out to be a stable democracy, which we all hope and pray that it does.

Life and death decisions are based on intelligence. The fact that the intelligence assessments before the war were so wildly off the mark should trouble all Americans. And it won't do to say -- well, maybe the weapons of mass destruction disappeared across the border. The 120 high and medium priority suspect weapons of mass destruction sites are still there to inspect. The mobile trailers are in our possession. The UAVs are in our possession. We cannot and should not delay critical self-assessment until every possibility, no matter how remote, is excluded.

In terms of its assessments that Iraq was in actual possession of weapons of mass destruction before the war, so far the Intelligence Community is batting zero.

Moreover, some of the public pronouncements of the Intelligence Community before the war were actually inconsistent with its own underlying classified documents. Compare, if you will, the unclassified October 2002 white paper on "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs" and the classified October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate -- or NIE -- on which the white paper's key judgments were based.

For instance, one paragraph in the now-declassified portion of the NIE states the judgment of the Intelligence Community that Iraq "is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such [BW] agents, including anthrax, for delivery by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives."

However, in the unclassified white paper issued at the same time, the clause "including potentially against the US Homeland" was added at the end of the paragraph. That clause wasn't in the then-classified NIE on which it was presumably based.

Another example: the then-classified NIE said: "Baghdad could make enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by 2005 to 2007 if it obtains suitable centrifuge tubes this year and has all the other materials and technological expertise necessary to build production-scale uranium enrichment facilities." Even that cautiously worded assessment was called a "less likely scenario," and there was even more caution added by a reference to Iraq's "inexperience in building and operating centrifuge facilities to produce highly enriched uranium and [its] challenges in procuring the necessary equipment and expertise."

The unclassified white paper provided to the public sounded a very different and more ominous note. It said: "Baghdad may have acquired uranium enrichment capabilities that could shorten substantially the amount of time necessary to make a nuclear weapon." Nothing there about "less likely" or "inexperience" or "challenges".

Exacerbating the CIA's inconsistencies between its public and classified statements was the existence of an intelligence assessment office in the Defense Department outside of the Intelligence Community. According to press reports, that office, called the Office of Special Plans working for Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith, found an Iraq -- al-Qaeda collaboration where the CIA didn't. This office had its own direct access into the National Security Council and the Office of the Vice President. Its analysis was reportedly critical of the CIA for not finding collaboration between Iraq and al Qaeda. And that seems to have affected what the CIA was avoiding saying publicly compared to what it was saying in the classified documents.

In its then-classified NIE assessment, the CIA had real doubts that Saddam would supply weapons of mass destruction to terrorist surrogates. The CIA talked about Saddam transferring weapons of mass destruction as an "extreme step" which he might take only if "desperate." Listen to the caution and the nuance in the CIA's then-classified assessment:

"Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW against the United States, fearing that exposure of Iraqi involvement would provide Washington a stronger cause for making war. Iraq probably would attempt clandestine attacks against the US homeland if Baghdad feared an attack that threatened the survival of the regime were imminent or unavoidable, or possibly for revenge. Such attacks -- more likely with biological than chemical agents -- probably would be carried out by [Iraq's] special forces or intelligence operatives. ...Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as al-Qa'ida ... could perpetrate the type of terrorist attack that he would hope to conduct. In such circumstances, he might decide that the extreme step of assisting the Islamist terrorists in conducting a CBW attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."

But none of these then-classified judgments were included in the CIA's public white paper. The CIA's doubts about Iraq's collaboration with al Qaeda were buried in classification from the public on the eve of our going to war. How different the CIA's classified judgments sound from the President's very public warnings to the American people that "Saddam Hussein would like nothing more than to use a terrorist network to attack and to kill and leave no fingerprints behind" and that "Each passing day could be the one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX nerve gas or someday a nuclear weapon to a terrorist group."

Why was the skepticism in the then-classified NIE about the possibility of Saddam transferring weapons of mass destruction to terrorists left out of the public white paper of the CIA? Was it because the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans was putting on a full court press for the existence of an Iraq-al Qaeda collaboration? Was the administration listening to the Office of Special Plans rather than the Intelligence Community?

We need to find the answers to these and many other questions. This Committee has a special responsibility to the men and women of our Armed Forces to look at the pre-war intelligence because planning for military operations is based on intelligence. Flawed intelligence can put our troops and our nation at risk.

Our credibility globally has taken a big hit because of this massive intelligence failure, and as a result there is less support from people and nations around the world for the United States and for the war on terrorism. Serious consequences can follow because we depend on other people and other nations to provide us with valuable tips and information. We need their cooperation in fighting terrorism. When we face future international security crises, we will undoubtedly seek the support and cooperation of the international community based on our Intelligence Community's assessment that there is a threat. It will be harder to secure that cooperation if our intelligence is not viewed as credible and objective.

For the sake of our future safety as a nation, we simply cannot accept intelligence being as far off the mark as it was before the Iraq war.

Source: Office of Sen. Levin