Adm. Stansfield Turner, Former Director of the CIA

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, June 18, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Meantime, the search for weapons of mass destruction continues in Iraq, and now some former U.S. intelligence agents are accusing the White House of maybe misusing the CIA.

My next guest says that the Bush administration stretched the facts on weapons of mass destruction or maybe just made some severe mistakes. He’s Admiral Stansfield Turner, the former CIA director under President Carter.

Director, always good to have you. Thank you for coming.


CAVUTO: State your position. Do you think the administration lied?

TURNER: No, I don’t think they deliberately lied. I think that they overstretched the facts. We don’t know and won’t until the investigation being undertaken today by the Congress reveals what the CIA actually told the president.

My concern in this issue is that U.S. intelligence is losing credibility at home and around the world, and that we cannot afford, particularly when we are following a preemptive military doctrine. We’ve got to have confidence as an American public and by the international community that we know what we’re talking about, and I think we’ve to get to the bottom of this.

My hunch is we’ll find out that the CIA sent up intelligence which said there’s a 60-percent probability of this, there’s a 40-percent probability of that, and the policymakers decided to take the 40-percent probability because it accorded more with their views.

CAVUTO: That’s a bit of a stretch, Admiral. I mean there’s certainly every reason to believe that Saddam Hussein as recently as a few years ago -- the U.N. acknowledged this. The Clinton administration said he had weapons of mass destruction. They never accounted for how the weapons suddenly disappeared, if, in fact, they did disappear.

So there wasn’t much debate that weapons were there. The difficulty seems to be finding them. Right? There is no debate there were weapons were there. The difficulty seems to be finding them, right?

TURNER: There’s no debate there were weapons there, and I think there are weapons still there, but I don’t think we’re ever going to find that they had these weapons in their army on 45-minute notice, as we were told, because we’ve now conquered their army.

I don’t think we’re going to find that they were purchasing uranium in Africa in order to make nuclear weapons.

CAVUTO: But, Admiral, this is an important charge you’re making here. You’re more or less saying that the administration exaggerated.

TURNER: Absolutely.

CAVUTO: Did it?

TURNER: There’s no question in my mind they exaggerated on these several points that I’ve just given to you. Take the mobile laboratory issue where they said the other day this proves that Iraq had broken the United Nations Security Council resolution. Doesn’t prove that at all.

In the first place, if you read the report from the CIA on the mobile labs, they only say it’s probable these were used as mobile labs. They don’t make any categorical statement, and, therefore, it can’t be a violation...

CAVUTO: But, Admiral, you just said that you think that there are weapons there now.

TURNER: Yes, I do.

CAVUTO: So if we’re to be faulted for anything -- I guess what I want to get clear as we try to unravel what happened here – we’re to be faulted because we can’t find them, not that they’re not necessarily there. There’s a very important difference, is there not?

TURNER: No, there’s not that big a difference. The issue is we exaggerated the extent of the threat. We exaggerated the imminence of the threat, and it is losing credibility for our intelligence, and we cannot afford that when we are the world’s leaders and we have to be able to go to the world and say we want to do this and you want to come along with us because we have good intelligence when you...

CAVUTO: I see your point, sir, but could you say that if we find weapons in -- anywhere and if you’re right they’re still there -- it’s all off, right? This whole debate is silly, right?

TURNER: No, no. This whole debate is not silly. We do not know whether these were exaggerations that came out came out of the CIA at Langley or came out of the White House in Washington, D.C. It’s critically important that we understand that because, if it’s a political issue with the White House, that’s one thing, and everybody around the world understands that politicians sometimes tend to overstate things.

If it was an inherent problem in the CIA and they were sending up hard intelligence that there were biological and chemical weapons in those Iraqi ground forces ready to be fired in 45 minutes -- and that’s patently wrong -- then we’ve got an intelligence problem we’ve got to solve, both in terms of the perception of the public and the world about our intelligence, and because we really have to be able to get ground truth in the future.

CAVUTO: Do you think, Admiral, that the same government that was capable of burying and hiding a lot of bodies, maybe tens of thousands, some say hundreds of thousands of them, is equally capable of hiding weapons of mass destruction?

TURNER: Oh, absolutely. And, as I said earlier, I think we will find some. I don’t think we’ll find anything like the huge quantities we’ve been talking about, and we may find that Saddam was a little more astute than we think and he did get rid of a lot or most of them or transfer them over to Syria or someplace in anticipation of the second round of inspections that started last November. So it may be that there are none or there are rather few.

CAVUTO: All right, Admiral. Thank you very much. Always enjoy chatting with you.


CAVUTO: The former CIA director, Admiral Stansfield Turner.

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