WASHINGTON – After maintaining a low profile while his chief inspector fielded questions, President Bush came out swinging Friday, saying David Kay's (search) interim report demonstrates that the war against Iraq was just and necessary.
"The report states that Saddam Hussein's regime had a clandestine network of biological laboratories, a live strain of deadly agent botulinum (search), sophisticated concealment efforts and advanced design work on prohibited longer-range missiles," Bush said while standing in front of Marine One before leaving for Milwaukee to attend a fund-raiser and deliver a speech expected to tout new job numbers. The strain of botulinum had been stored in a vial kept for safekeeping in an Iraqi scientist's refrigerator since 1993.
"These findings already make clear that Saddam Hussein actively deceived the international community, that Saddam Hussein, was in clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 and that Saddam Hussein was a danger to the world," he said.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, which threatened Iraq with "serious consequences" if it failed to show it had ended its WMD program, was used by the coalition as a basis for invading the country last March.
Kay, a CIA adviser and head of the Iraq Survey Group, was on Capitol Hill for a second day of testimony Friday in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee (search). He also met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., one of the president's critics who has questioned whether the intelligence used to justify war was accurate.
After the meeting, Pelosi said Kay's report shows that no imminent threat was posed by Saddam Hussein toward the United States.
"Because of a lack of imminence of a threat, it is clear that there was time for more diplomatic efforts to be made before we went to war," she said.
Speaking to reporters after testifying Friday, Kay said while he had little more to add to what he'd said the day before, he wanted to emphasize that his findings are about more than weapons of mass destruction.
"We've shared in the classified report about two dozen major cases of where Iraq hid equipment or engaged in prohibited activities that were not permitted under the U.N. resolution," Kay said. "I think you can find a lot more to this story than 'we can not find weapons of mass destruction.' That would not be my lede."
In hours of testimony Thursday in front of the House and Senate Select Intelligence Committees, Kay did not reveal any bombshells about the deposed regime's weapons program but said he had enough evidence to show that Saddam had been violating U.N. disarmament resolutions up until as recently as this year, including by having very substantial chemical and biological weapons plans.
"At this point, we have found substantial evidence of an intent of senior-level Iraqi officials, including Saddam, to continue production at some future point in time of weapons of mass destruction. We have not found at this point actual weapons," he said.
"In addition to intent, we have found a large body of continuing activities and equipment that were not declared to the U.N. inspectors when they returned in November of last year," Kay said.
Kay said Iraq's nuclear weapons program appears to have been the least developed program uncovered so far, but the country did have bombs that could fly as far as 1,000 kilometers, much further than the 93-kilometer limit the U.N. had imposed on the country.
A declassified portion of Kay's interim report also revealed that Saddam had led an extensive covert operation that lasted years and required massive coordination.
"Iraq's WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and was elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom (search)," the report reads.
Standing on the White House lawn Friday with former New York City police chief Bernard Kerik, Bush answered reporters questions but gave few clues about his confidence any weapons of mass destruction would be found.
Bush quoted from the Kay report about the secret nature of Saddam's programs but refused to speculate how long it would take before a final report is written.
According to a source with knowledge of Kay's Thursday testimony, a final report may not be issued until next September. Kay has said he needs another six to nine months before he would feel confident about issuing any conclusions.
Kay, who returned to the United States last month, is expected to spend some time in Washington going through the thousands of documents collected from the old regime. However, getting through those papers could take longer than would normally since the government has a shortage of fluent Arabic language speakers.
According to reports, the president's $87 billion request to fund military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan includes $600 million to continue the WMD investigation.
In addition to the documents search, CIA investigators are taking a closer look at two metal flatbed trailers that were found last April and May with cooling equipment, a water tank, an air compressor and a battered fermenter. The trailers were believed by some intelligence agents to be part of the weapons program, but that assertion was challenged by some U.S. defense analysts who said the trailers were more likely used to fill hydrogen weather balloons.
Kay said Thursday the findings are "still very much being examined" and investigation of the trailers has "yielded a number of explanations including hydrogen, missile propellant and BW production but technical limitations would prevent any of these processes from being ideally suited to these trailers."
CIA representatives began a few weeks ago taking a second look at the trailers, first made known by a defector working with Ahmad Chalabi (search), head of the Iraqi National Congress and rotating president of the Iraqi Governing Council. The trailers remain at the inspection team's headquarters at Baghdad's airport.
Kay did not directly offer an explanation of why postwar discoveries have not generally matched up with prewar assertions by the U.S. intelligence community and the Bush administration. CIA Director George Tenet rejected congressional criticism that U.S. intelligence agencies used flawed methods to reach their prewar conclusions on Iraq's weapons programs.
In a letter dated Wednesday to the chairman and ranking member of the House Intelligence panel, Tenet said the intelligence findings were "honest and professional."
Critics have contended that the U.S. intelligence community made serious errors in its analysis of the threat posed by Iraq or the administration exaggerated what intelligence information it did have to persuade a skeptical world to support an invasion.
"Did we misread it, or did they mislead us, or did they simply get it wrong? Whatever the answer is, it's not a good answer," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"We've gone over the statements of Dr. Kay in his public document that there have been no weapons of mass destruction found to date in Iraq," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services panel. "And what that reinforces is the need for the investigation to be completed into our intelligence ... how -- at least based on this interim report -- it could have been so far off and ... whether or not it was exaggerated or whether or not it was hyped, either by the intelligence community or by the users of that intelligence."
Supporters say the information provided by Kay, who was described by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., as an "extraordinary, well-qualified, hardworking public servant," shows that Saddam did conduct an elaborate hide-and-seek that included the burning and smashing of computers at suspected weapons sites, and that Saddam was clearly up to something.
"From the information uncovered to date, it is clear that the threat Saddam presented to the region and to the world was real, growing and grave," said Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
"He's no longer in power and the world is better for it," the president said, brushing aside a poll that said public confidence in his ability to deal wisely with an international crisis had dropped sharply.
"Sometimes the American people like the decisions I make, sometimes they don't," he said. "But they need to know I'll make tough decisions based upon what I think is right."
Kerik, who has just returned from Iraq after spending four months helping train 40,000 new Iraqi police officers, said the results of Kay's report are extraneous.
"In my opinion, there was one weapon of mass destruction in Iraq, and it was Saddam Hussein," Kerik said.
"I understand probably more than anyone what a threat Iraq was ... I was beneath the towers on September 11th when they fell. And I again want to thank the president for the honor in allowing me to go there, because I lost 23 people ... They were defending the freedom of our country. I got to go on their behalf to Iraq to bring freedom to Iraq and take one less threat away from us in this country."
Kay, who is a weapons inspector, has not given any indication whether Saddam had ties to terrorist groups, particularly Al Qaeda.
Fox News' Sharon Kehnemui and the Associated Press contributed to this report.