[Congressional Record: December 4, 2007 (Senate)]
[Page S14734-S14735]                       


  Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, this morning I had an opportunity, which I 
rarely have, to watch the entire press conference of President Bush at 
the White House. The press conference dealt largely with the subject of 
the National Intelligence Estimate that came out yesterday about the 
issue of a nuclear weapons program in Iran. The NIE that came out 
indicated that--to the surprise of certainly myself and many others--
the country of Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program 4 years ago, 
in 2003. I was surprised, and many others were, because we have heard 
from this administration repeatedly about the threat posed by Iran's 
nuclear weapons program including some weeks ago when President Bush 
raised the specter of a ``World War III.''
  Now we learn the nuclear weapons program they indicated Iran was 
involved in was discontinued 4 years ago. That comes from our National 
Intelligence Estimate, which is a cumulative assessment of all our 
intelligence agencies.
  It raises, I think, some very important and troubling questions. The 
questions are not new questions, actually. It is: What did this 
administration know? What did they understand? What did they find out 
and when? The American people, and certainly this Congress, has been 
treated to a very generous conversation by the President and his 
administration about the specter of the nuclear weapons program in Iran 
and how it must be stopped. I don't disagree at all with the contention 
that the behavior of Ahmadinejad and of some of the terrorist elements 
in Iran and others is far outside the norm and is troublesome to this 
country. But that is not what I am talking about.
  I am talking about the question of a nuclear weapons program and the 
relentless language by this administration about the nuclear weapons 
program that was being pursued by the country of Iran.
  The intelligence community now says that is not the case and has not 
been the case since 2003. I wonder if the administration knew, if Mr. 
Hadley knew--I heard his briefing--did the President know about this 
new assessment when 5 or 6 weeks ago he was giving another of his 
speeches and raising the specter of World War III in connection with a 
presumed or alleged nuclear weapons program by the country of Iran. The 
American people certainly didn't know what the National Intelligence 
Estimate had disclosed to us. We are told the Intelligence Community 
came to this conclusion sometime

[[Page S14735]]

around this summer. Mr. Hadley originally said the intelligence folks 
alerted the White House and indicated that the President should back 
off a bit. He certainly did not back off.
  The reason I raise these issues is because I remember back about 5 
years ago going to a room in which top-secret briefings were offered to 
Members of Congress as a leadup to the war in Iraq. I remember directly 
the Vice President, the National Security Chief, now the Secretary of 
State, Condoleezza Rice, I remember the discussion by the head of the 
CIA, I remember the top-secret material that was told us, which turns 
out not to have been accurate as a leadup to the Iraq war.
  I remember when Secretary Powell, then-Secretary of State, went to 
the United Nations and made the case describing things we had 
previously been told about in many cases in top-secret briefings.
  For example Powell talked about the danger of the mobile biological 
weapons labs that supposedly existed in the country of Iraq.
  It turns out the mobile biological weapons labs did not exist. It 
turns out the mobile biological weapons laboratory story was from a 
fabricator from the country of Iraq, a former taxicab driver in 
Baghdad, as a matter of fact, someone who was telling this to the 
German intelligence community. And someone in the German intelligence 
community wondered whether this person was credible and expressed 
doubts about the person's credibility to the American intelligence 
service. They nicknamed this man ``Curve Ball.''
  So from a single source, a man named Curve Ball who, among other 
things, used to drive a taxicab in Baghdad, the world is treated by 
Secretary Powell to a presentation at the United Nations saying Iraq 
has mobile biological weapons laboratories which are a danger to all of 
us. It turns out not to have been true, a fabrication based on a single 
source without credibility.
  None of us were told that at the time, of course. The world wasn't 
told that. We were just told that Iraq had mobile biological weapons 
laboratories. We were told Iraq was buying aluminum tubes for the 
purpose of reconstituting their nuclear capability. The world was told 
that by Secretary Powell. It turns out that was false as well. And it 
also turns out that even as we were told that information, the 
administration knew there were others inside the administration who did 
not believe it, and yet that information was imparted to us as a set of 
facts that represented the danger coming from the country of Iraq.
  We were told that Iraq was attempting to purchase yellowcake from 
Niger for the purpose of reconstituting a nuclear capability. We 
discovered only later that the documents on that were fraudulent. We 
discovered they were forgeries. Again, the information given the 
Congress was inaccurate.
  Yellowcake from Niger, aluminum tubes, mobile biological weapons 
laboratories--not accurate, not true. It was presented to the Congress 
as fact, presented to the American people as fact prior to the Iraq 
  There has been a great deal of discussion and also concern in the 
country, in this Chamber, about whether this administration is 
preparing to do something with respect to the country of Iran, and that 
has been heightened by the language President Bush used recently, 
including language that said ``World War III'' in the context of the 
danger of a nuclear weapons program in the country of Iran. That 
statement was about 5 or 6 weeks ago.
  We now know that the National Intelligence Estimate, representing all 
of the intelligence agencies in this country, has indicated that the 
nuclear weapons program of Iran that has been discussed so much by the 
administration was discontinued in 2003.
  I think there are serious credibility questions. The President held a 
press conference today that seemed to suggest that, well, there is no 
real issue here. There is a very big issue, I say to the President, a 
very big issue. This country needs to take action internationally to 
develop strategies based on what we know to be the truth, not what 
someone alleges to be true. This country needs to have good 
information, information that is not fabricated by a man named Curve 
Ball who used to drive a taxicab. This country deserves better than 
  In my judgment, this country has been failed in many ways, some by 
the intelligence community, some by the administration, perhaps some by 
Congress. But we certainly deserve straight answers. We deserve the 
best intelligence that is available.
  Look, the fact is we face a challenging and difficult world. One part 
of that world is the country of Iran. I do not by being here tonight 
suggest that Iran's behavior is not troublesome, or that they are not a 
danger in their neighborhood. They are. But I have always believed that 
the constructive approach to dealing with Iran and, yes, other 
circumstances around the world is through diplomacy and negotiation and 
aggressive diplomacy at that. This administration does not believe that 
is the right course. But I do believe that facing the world that we 
face, a very challenging world, a war against terrorism, this country 
will be protected by good intelligence, by an intelligence community 
that works.

  I appreciate the fact that yesterday we were told finally that the 
Iranians are not at the moment engaging in a nuclear weapons program. 
They discontinued that in 2003. They say they have high reliability 
with respect to that conclusion. I appreciate the fact that we are 
getting that conclusion at this point. And if that is a valid 
conclusion, if that is the result of good intelligence--and I certainly 
hope our intelligence service has improved because they got it wrong 
about 5 years ago. We need to be well served by the best intelligence 
service we can be capable of producing.
  I know today there are men and women risking their lives as members 
of our intelligence community. My thoughts are with them. I want the 
best they can give us. And if yesterday's National Intelligence 
Estimate gives us opportunities to better understand what is happening 
in that region, then that advances our knowledge.
  I will say this: I think this Congress and this administration need 
to have some straight talk about credibility because there are serious 
credibility issues with respect to this issue that at this point have 
not been answered at all, certainly were not answered in the 
President's news conference today.
  The safety of this country hinges on our ability to have good 
intelligence. This war on terrorism is not a bunch of words, it is 
real, and there are too many victims out there in this country today 
who understand that reality. The way to protect our country in the 
future is to have a good understanding of what is going on in the 
world, have good intelligence, have good information, and take steps to 
protect ourselves. But it does not serve this country's interest by 
ratcheting up the rhetoric and talking about World War III with respect 
to a country that the administration has alleged up to now has had a 
nuclear weapons program, only to find out that nuclear weapons program 
was discontinued 4 years ago.
  This Congress and this administration needs to have an aggressive 
conversation about credibility. We actually represent the same country. 
I am sure we want the same result. We want to protect this country. We 
want a foreign policy that deals with reality and a foreign policy that 
deals with truths that exist out there in a very challenging world.
  I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.