The following is a transcribed excerpt from 'FOX News Sunday,' July 11, 2004:
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: On Friday, a Senate committee issued a blistering report about the work of U.S. intelligence before the Iraq war. Among the unanimous conclusions: prewar assertions on weapons of mass destruction were group-think, wrong in many cases, overstated in others; after 1998 the CIA had no human intelligence assets in Iraq on weapons of mass destruction; the consensus in the intelligence community was that Saddam Hussein had contacts with Al Qaeda, but no formal relationship; and there's no evidence the bad reporting was the result of politics of pressure.
How did they get so much so wrong? And what happens next?
For answers, we turn to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Republican Pat Roberts and Vice Chairman Democrat Jay Rockefeller.
And, gentleman, welcome. Thanks so much for coming in today to discuss your report.
U.S. SENATOR PAT ROBERTS, R-KS: We thank you.
U.S. SENATOR JOHN ROCKEFELLER, D-WV: Senator Roberts, let's start with your central conclusion. And I can't imagine anything more disturbing to someone in your position.
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ROBERTS: In the end, what the president and what the Congress used to send the country to war was information that was provided by the intelligence community, and that information was flawed.
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WALLACE: In your view, Senator, was the Bush administration a victim of bad intelligence or an instigator?
ROBERTS: I don't think they were an instigator. I think they were a victim, and so was the Congress, so was everybody involved.
As a matter of fact, the intelligence agencies all throughout the world had the same assumption. It was an assumption train is what I have been saying. And I think they were all suffering from this kind of assumption and, sort of, a group-think.
And so I don't care what intelligence agency we're talking about from what country, they assumed that after 1998 that Saddam Hussein would reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction. That was not the case. There are a lot of reasons to understand why they might do that, but in terms of really getting what we needed to get was a very tough assessment, pay attention to the caveats, that simply was not done.
WALLACE: Senator Rockefeller, as we said, the unanimous conclusion of the report was that there was no political pressure on the analysts, and yet you and two other senators issued a separate document in which you said that there was intense pressure. Which was it?
ROCKEFELLER: I voted for the report, and I congratulate Chairman Roberts and all of our colleagues for having a 17 to nothing vote on the most momentous thing in the last 50 or 100 years.
On the other hand, I very strongly disagreed with the pressure aspect of it, but was not going to vote against the entire report because of that aspect.
I think there was pressure. I think there was pressure primarily because of the non-stop barrage of statements that were coming out of the administration saying that, you know, "the horror, mushroom clouds, grave and growing danger," all that kind of thing. And I think there was also that pressure was felt very much within the community.
And there was even an e-mail on the most important part of Colin Powell's U.N. speech, in which somebody said, "You know, the guy that got us this information is probably nothing more than just a drunkard." That was on the mobile weapons labs — biological weapons labs. And he said, you know, "What's the point? The powers to be have already made up their mind that we're going to go to war. So ahead and send it if you want, but it's not going to make much difference."
WALLACE: But the report you approved had this to say — and let's put it up, if we can — "The committee was not presented with any evidence that intelligence analysts changed their judgments as a result of political pressure."
So what the report said is, yes, the administration was making these statements, yes, they were coming, Vice President Cheney was coming to the CIA, but it said that no analysts changed their judgments.
ROCKEFELLER: Well, if the people that we interviewed — that our committee interviewed nobody indicated that they'd changed their judgment. That was the statement that was made.
You cannot prove the changing of judgment, but Robert Kerr (ph), who was the former deputy director of the CIA, said that there was a lot of pressure. George Tenet himself was approached by analysts, and he said, "If you want to relieve the pressure, don't give any more answers where there isn't new information." And the ombudsman of the CIA, whose job it is to monitor these things, said that in his 32 years of experience in the CIA he'd never had so many people coming to him talking about hammering and pressure.
So, I mean, Pat Roberts might disagree on that, and it's an important disagreement, but it was not enough to have me vote against the entire report.
WALLACE: Senator Roberts, one area where you do indicate that there was some manipulation by the administration is on links between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda, and let's look at what the report says about that.
The committee report says: "The CIA's assessment that there was no evidence proving Iraqi complicity or assistance in an Al Qaeda attack was responsible and objective."
Senator, that wasn't what the president and the vice president were telling the country.
ROBERTS: Well, the president and the vice president pretty well said that there were contacts with Al Qaeda...
WALLACE: They said more than that. They talked about being allies, they talked...
ROBERTS: Well, we were worried — "we" meaning the editorial "we" of the whole country — was Iraq becoming a safe haven for, say, any jihadist group, more particularly in regards to Al Qaeda.
Were they in contact? Yes.
Were they a safe haven? Yes, you have Mr. Zarqawi and others, more especially up in the northwest part, where they made ricin.
Was there any operational training? Probably not.
But the key here on pressure is that, because of repetitive questions, the WMD section became a better section. There were not any repetitive questions, or hammering — as Jay has pointed out, in the words of the inspector general — in regards to the WMD section, and it was wrong.
Now, I've talked to both of these gentlemen, and the bottom line that they have indicated in our report — 511 pages — is that there was no pressure.
I don't know how many times I have tried to say this in committee and in public. If anybody has any evidence of their analytical product being changed or coerced or manipulated or intimidated, please come forward.
We had some people come forward, but it was all hearsay, and it didn't amount to anything, in terms of any direct evidence. We had one individual raise his hand, but it was about Cuba.
And then we interviewed — in terms of the staff, I asked the question, "Are we intimidating these people? Do they have a sense of esprit de corps that would be on the down side?" And they said, "No, they really appreciate us asking about it, in terms of their product."
So, I know that people can say, because of the climate that existed — but one other thing: Every member of Congress that have criticized the president and the administration of declarative and assertive statements made the same kind of statements when they were presented with the same kind of information. And we used that intelligence as well.
WALLACE: I want to pick up on that, because it's exactly where I wanted to go next.
Senator Rockefeller, let's look at Congress's role in this, and in fact when you voted to go to war, you talked — I was reading it just the other day — that Saddam Hussein is a threat, he's got weapons of mass destruction.
You are the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Did you ever, in the run-up to the war, ask, "Where's your evidence?" to the CIA analysts, the people that were coming and talking to you. "Where's the hard evidence? How do you know?" Did you ever ask those questions?
ROCKEFELLER: We had some threat briefings on it, but we didn't have probably the amount of all-source, as they say, intelligence that the president has — that he had all during that period of time.
I voted for it, because I sat approximately 50 feet, you know, looking as I am at you, in front of the president of the United States, telling me that they had nuclear weapons, biological weapons, chemical weapons, and the means to, you know, ballistically send them — weaponize them, and send them in our direction, or through terrorism, through Al Qaeda.
WALLACE: But did you ever say to the president or the director of CIA...
ROCKEFELLER: No, I didn't, no.
WALLACE: ... or anybody, "Where's the beef? How do you know?"
ROCKEFELLER: But the point is, we know now.
WALLACE: But the point is why didn't you ask more questions then?
ROCKEFELLER: Because we didn't even get a national intelligence estimate from the Central Intelligence Agency. We didn't get it and we didn't get it...
WALLACE: Well, you got it before you voted.
ROCKEFELLER: We had to ask for it. It was put together in three weeks. And the part which was classified was very dubious about — it had a lot of caveats, concerns, second thoughts. The part that was unclassified, both of which were released at the same time, was very much, "They've got weapons of mass destruction."
WALLACE: But the classified part — you read, sir, correct?
ROCKEFELLER: That is correct.
WALLACE: And if that had all the caveats in it, you didn't reflect that and...
ROCKEFELLER: And, Chris, which is the reason why I've said I was wrong in my vote. And if I knew what I knew today back then I never would have voted for that power.
ROBERTS: Let me do a mea culpa on behalf of Jay and myself because we both believed it. And we were very aggressive in the intelligence committee in asking about all the aspects of the NIE. That's the national intelligence estimate. That's the document we use as to whether you go to war or not.
And it was only three weeks that it took time to prepare that, asked by the Congress. The CIA should have been doing this along and along and along. This was since 1991. It was like an assumption train. It was assumption and then they layered something on top of that. And then pretty soon you get into the group-think problems. So it was a 10-year assessment really, but it was really a collection of past intelligence.
Now when we would be asking about, "Is it true that Iraq would use an unmanned aerial vehicle to attack the United States, ship it over here and then use some kind of a biological weapon?" That was one of the assertions. "Is it true that the aluminum tubes could be used for a centrifuge to reconstitute his nuclear program?" And that was their assessment.
We just had it in the paper yesterday by an anonymous source down at the CIA saying that the aluminum tube issue is still up for grabs. And then they say that they don't have any kind of a problem down there? Now, that's classified and we really can't talk about it, but there is no way that those aluminum tubes will be used in regards to a centrifuge.
WALLACE: Senator Roberts, let me ask you about another aspect of this...
ROBERTS: I guess I'm just trying to say that we were both very tough in the questions. But the answers we got back are the same answers that the administration got back. They made those kind of statements. Jay did. I did. Our statements were wrong because the intelligence was wrong.
WALLACE: Your committee also hits the CIA for failing to have any human intelligence on the ground in Iraq after 1998, when the U.N. inspectors left.
In fact, doesn't Congress bear some responsibility for that? Since the Church committee in 1975, hasn't Congress steadily undercut human intelligence in the CIA? In fact, at one point, you mandated that there could not be any shady characters that were being used as assets in the CIA. Haven't you been part of the problem, as well?
ROBERTS: Well, the editorial "you" in terms of the French — the French? Pardon me — those days that you referred to, yes, there was great damage done to the CIA. But in the last I don't know how many years — I'll have to go back and check four or five years — and Jay was not a member of the committee; I've been a member of the committee for eight years.
But ever since we got in the Khobar Towers, into the Khartoum chemical plant — those are the wrong bombing, by the way — and the USS Cole and the bombing on the embassy in Africa, we have plussed up through supplemental appropriations each and every time. Now, it's not a question so much of money now after the Church days, and also personnel. We have really tried to plus up the human intelligence. But after 1998, when inspectors left, we had no collection from the HUMINT source in Iraq, which I find absolutely stunning.
Now, the answer the CIA gives back is, "Hey, this is tough." We know this is tough. It's a very dangerous situation. And they were busy elsewhere in regards to other threats: North Korea, we were involved in Kosovo, so on and so forth. But it's still not right, because that whole intelligence product goes back clear to 1991. Should have had people there.
WALLACE: All right. Let me switch if we can — we've got a little bit of time left — to the situation now. Should the president name, Senator Rockefeller, a new CIA director now before the election, in the middle of a campaign? Or can we stay with an acting director until November?
And what about the idea of a czar of intelligence to handle all 15 intelligence agencies? There's a report today the president is likely to oppose that idea.
ROCKEFELLER: Let's take the second question first. There are suggestions about a czar or a modified czar, a couple of czars or whatever. Let's put that aside for the moment because that's where we're going to be having hearings on. We're going to be looking deeply into exactly how do you do that. Do you do it through a vertical power integration? Do you do it through power sharing, trying to make them share information better than they do now?
As for the director of the CIA, I've long felt that an acting director — as much as I respect and like John McLaughlin, just the fact of something called an acting director for the next six or seven months, during such a dangerous period for the United States, with all of these talks about attacks on the United States, is not acceptable. The president — and there are three or four or five of these people in the country that both Pat Roberts and I could name who are so good, preemptively good, who would get support from both Democrats and Republicans, and he would be named or she would be named head of the CIA. And then no matter who won the election, they would...
WALLACE: Dick Armitage acceptable to you?
ROCKEFELLER: I'm not going to get into names, but that certainly is one of the names.
WALLACE: One of the names on your list that would be preemptively acceptable?
ROCKEFELLER: I just — let's just leave it there.
WALLACE: And, Senator Roberts, do we need a new director now? Can we stay with an acting director until November? And do you have a name?
ROBERTS: Well, we can stay with an acting director now. And I know John McLaughlin. He's a very skilled man, a lot of experience at the CIA. We both respect him. But he is an acting director.
Yes, I think we ought to have the administration send somebody up. It's going to be have to be an extraordinary pick. I like Rich Armitage but that's out of personal prejudice. He used to work for Senator Dole when I was up on Capitol Hill and I've known him for many years. He's a tough cookie and he certainly knows intelligence.
WALLACE: Somebody that could get through, you think, quickly?
ROBERTS: I don't know. I think you have to get somebody with impeccable, I think, credentials. And in this volatile season we're in, in terms of the even numbered year here and the politics — and I know the politics is not bean-bag — John Lehman is another name that has been suggested.
At any rate, whatever what would happen we would certainly expedite the confirmation process and try to do the best we can.
By the way, week after next we start on the reform hearings.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, thank you so much. Thanks for coming in today to discuss this very important subject.