Transcript: David Kay on 'Fox News Sunday'

Sunday , February 01, 2004



The following is an excerpt from FOX News Sunday, Feb. 1, 2004.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Well, this week former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay dropped a bombshell when he told a Senate committee there were a series of failures in pre-war intelligence on Iraq. He said, we were almost all wrong about weapons of mass destruction.

Today we want to examine this stunning revelation from all sides, and we start with David Kay.

Dr. Kay, good morning. Thank you for being here.


WALLACE: As we just said, there's a report in The Washington Post this morning that President Bush has changed his mind, apparently under pressure from members of Congress, and has decided to support an independent investigation, as you called for, into why all of the intelligence pre-war about Iraq was so wrong. Your reaction?

KAY: Well, I'm very happy if that turns out to be the case. I think it's important — not only important for the nation, it's important for our credibility as a global power in our relations with allies as we move forward.

WALLACE: Explain that about the credibility. I mean, there are a number of other investigations by the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the president's foreign intelligence advisory board. Why do we need a, quote, "independent" investigation?

KAY: Chris, I think it's partly because we've become a highly politicized nation, and we tend now to resort to these independent commissions. We're a year away from the Columbia disaster, and that had an independent commission.

But it's important because we lead hopefully because people think we're honest and correct. When you make mistakes, you need to flesh out, you need to be seen as understanding why you made those mistakes, so the next security crisis, whether it be Syria or Iran or wherever, and we tell our allies, "This is why we think it's dangerous," they understand that we've taken the steps to be sure that we're correct and that, in fact, we're honest about what we're talking about.

WALLACE: But, I have to say, the report in The Washington Post says that both the president and congressional Republicans say it will be impossible for this independent commission to finish its work because a date in November called the election.

Given all the work that you've already done, given all the intelligence that's there, you know, documented pre-war, does it really need to take another nine months?

KAY: I don't know enough to know how — I don't know how long it's going to take to appoint the independent commission, first of all. It is a serious endeavor and you have to not rush to judgment.

You're talking about things — I suspect there are fundamental flaws in the way we collect and analyze intelligence. That's not something you want to do from horseback. It going to be a time- consuming process. Whether it's going to take six months or nine months, I have no idea at this point.

WALLACE: I ask you this, I suppose, more as a citizen than I do as an expert on weapons. Do you think it's important for people to know who's responsible for such a massive intelligence failure before they vote in November?

KAY: I think it's important to know that an honest effort is under way to find the causes.

KAY: I worry about the easy resort to, "Who's responsible? Let's nail a scalp up on the wall and identify a person."

I think this is not a witch hunt. This is a hunt about fundamental flaws in the way we collect, and have collected over a considerable period of time, our intelligence. That's more important than nailing an individual.

WALLACE: All right. Well, let's not do a witch hunt, but let's try to understand what exactly went on here. And let's begin by going back to some of the strongest statements that were made by the president and his men in the run-up to the war. Let's listen.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: He's amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons, including anthrax, botulism toxin, possibly smallpox.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.

POWELL: There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.


WALLACE: Dr. Kay, from what you know now, were all those statements wrong?

KAY: Well, they were all certainly wrong in large part. For example, Secretary Powell did say "capability to produce." I think he did have the capability to produce. He didn't have the actual weapons then.

WALLACE: Last Sunday, Senator John Kerry told me that he believed that the Bush administration misled Congress, not only about the weapons of mass destruction but also about Iraq's link to Al Qaida. Take a listen to what Senator Kerry had to say.


U.S. SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA): I think there's been an enormous amount of exaggeration, stretching, deception. And the question is still unanswered as to what Dick Cheney was doing over at the CIA personally.


WALLACE: Is there any evidence that Senator Kerry is right, that top officials in the Bush administration either pressured intelligence analysts or that they, in fact, exaggerated what they were told?

KAY: Well, certainly on the pressure, which I think I can speak more directly to because I had a number of analysts working for me, I've never met an analyst who felt like he was pressured by anyone in the administration. They agonized over the data they had to come to the conclusions they had.

Now, I think that needs to be examined in an independent commission. All I can say is that, personally, my own observations were that did not occur.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that, though, because there was a report in the papers yesterday that Mr. Kerr of the CIA, who's conducting an internal investigation, said there was pressure but that the analysts told them they resisted it.

So, which was it? Was there pressure that they resisted, or was there no pressure at all?

KAY: All I can say is, the analysts I talked to, in speaking about how they arrived at their conclusions, felt very strongly that they had arrived at it themselves on the basis of the — and they were much more concerned about a lack of collection capability than they were anything else.

WALLACE: Let's look at the other side of it, though, the second part. Did the president and his top officials hype the intelligence that they were told?

I have read the parts of the National Intelligence Estimate that were declassified in October of 2002. And let's take a look at part of it.

The State Department said it could not find a compelling case that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons. And yet, we were never told that by the administration.


KAY: Well, I think that's true. There are caveats that clearly dropped out, dissenting opinions that clearly dropped out, as you moved higher up and people read the headline summaries.

I think this is something that needs to be investigated and looked at, at whether the process itself of collecting and analyzing intelligence gets to decisionmakers, the full variety of opinion that analysts have about an event, or whether it drops and is shaped somewhere in the intelligence community as it moves in.

WALLACE: But explain that. If, in fact, there was a dissenting opinion in this particular case about whether Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons. Here was the State Department coming out in the National Intelligence Estimate and saying, "You know, we can't make a case for this." Why was it that it was dropped out?

That's a fairly serious thing, if there was a difference of opinion at the analyst level, but at the top officials level there wasn't that reflection.

KAY: Well, I think what you will find, as we walk back through that process, is the State Department, after all, has no operatives in the field. It's an analysis shop. That, in fact, the bulk, the CIA, DIA analyst, who actually have direct contact with collection, thought, in fact, there was a program there.

I think we've got two things to look at: How did the bulk of the analysts come to a conclusion that turns out to be wrong? And what is the process for feeding to top-level decisionmakers both the majority opinion and caveats, minority opinions, as they exist? Clearly there were failures on both.

WALLACE: Let's go to the first question, though. Why was the intelligence so wrong? Here were the president and his top officials, they were talking about specific amounts of stockpiles. Secretary Powell at the U.N. was talking about exactly how often various weapons were moved and precisely to what locations. Where were they getting this stuff?

KAY: Chris, I think you will find out, as you work back through this process, a lot of the origin of this came originally from U.N. It's the u.N. inspectors, which I was part of. The amounts, the material balance accounts see tons of stuff, actually originates in a 1998 report, the last report of the U.N. special commission.

But it also — there are other things. Iraqi behavior — even Hans Blix, when he undertook the inspection, came to the initial conclusion that he reported to the Security Council: Iraq has not made a fundamental decision to come clean. So Iraqi behavior didn't help Iraq's case in this regard.

WALLACE: You know, that's, I think, a point that we want to talk about. Your testimony has been read different ways by different people, and I want to look at the other side.

You smile.

KAY: A great surprise.


WALLACE: Right. You say that there were no weapons of mass destruction, but you also say that, in fact, Iraq was a very serious threat to this country. Explain.

KAY: I think Iraq was a dangerous place becoming more dangerous, because, in fact, what we observe is that the regime itself was coming apart. It was descending into worse the part of moral depravity and corruption. Saddam was isolated in a fantasy land capable of wreaking tremendous harm and terror on his individual citizens, but corruption, money gain was the root cause.

At the same time that we know there were terrorist groups in state still seeking WMD capability. Iraq, although I found no weapons, had tremendous capabilities in this area. A marketplace phenomena was about to occur, if it did not occur; sellers meeting buyers. And I think that would have been very dangerous if the war had not intervened.

WALLACE: But what could the sellers have sold, if they didn't have actual weapons?

KAY: The knowledge of how to make them, the knowledge of how to make small amounts, which is, after all, mostly what terrorists wants. They don't battlefield amounts of weapons.

No, Iraq remained a very dangerous place in terms of WMD capabilities, even though we found no large stockpiles of weapons.

WALLACE: Dr. Kay, in the end, though, what you're saying is that Congress approved the use of force, and the president sent more than 100,000 young men and women into war, based on bad information. Isn't that terribly disturbing?

KAY: It is disturbing. I hope some of that anguish came through in my testimony. Believe me, if it were not disturbing to me, I wouldn't be speaking out, I wouldn't be here today with you.

WALLACE: What does that do to the president's policy of preemptive attack, if you can't rely on intelligence to make sound judgments?

KAY: If you cannot rely on good, accurate intelligence that is credible to the American people and to others abroad, you certainly can't have a policy of preemption.

KAY: I think it's fundamental. Pristine intelligence — good, accurate intelligence — is a fundamental benchstone of any sort of policy of preemption to even be thought about.

WALLACE: So you're saying that if the president were to come to us and say, "Iraq is a grave danger" or Iran, rather, is a grave danger, or North Korea or Syria, you're saying that you would have greater doubts now because of what's happened in the past in Iraq on intelligence?

KAY: I would think most of us would have greater doubts. I would hope even the president would have greater doubts until we understand the fundamental causes.

WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much...

KAY: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: ... Dr. Kay. Appreciate your being here.