This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume," July 9, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.
Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. ET
BRIAN WILSON, GUEST-HOST: The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (search) came out with a report today, which levels extensive criticism of the CIA's pre-war intelligence estimates. The chairman and vice chairman of that committee, Republican Patrick Roberts of Kansas and Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, join us here in the studio now.
I have a question for both of you. Senator Roberts, one of the things you said today was you said this was a global intelligence failure. What do you mean by that?
ROBERTS: It means that every intelligence agency whether it's the Brits, whether it's the Israelis, whether it's the Russians, even the French and the United Nations made the same assumption. They presumed that Iraq would reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction (search), when the U.N. inspectors left in 1998. And that was not the case.
WILSON: You're convinced it was not the case and that a thorough search has been done?
ROBERTS: Well, the search is still underway, and they're still going through the paperwork. They did have the people there with the capability, in regards to weapons of mass destruction. There is a school of thought that you could reconstitute the weapons of mass destruction.
Ironically, some of the — some of the follow-up with the Iraqi generals, of the Republican Guard by the Defense Intelligence Agency, indicated that one general thought the other general had the WMD. And perhaps even Saddam Hussein thought he had WMD because nobody would tell him otherwise.
But the evidence that we have presented is absolutely without question going back over all of the intelligence, and it is not justified.
WILSON: Senator Rockefeller, you said today something that caught my ear. You said that you don't think there would have been a vote in the Senate to authorize war, if you knew then what you know now.
ROCKEFELLER: That's what I believe.
WILSON: How do you come to that conclusion?
ROCKEFELLER: Well, obviously I can't mathematically. I can't mathematically. But I know in my own case that I voted to give the president the authority to go to the U.N. and to go to war, if that didn't work out. Based upon the intelligence that all of us at that point thought we knew.
And it turned out that on weapons of mass destruction and on the Al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein link or the link to — between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, things which were being thrown around, some of which still are, didn't have any substantiation in intelligence. How would I have voted for it? I mean it was a powerful case made by the president of the United States. I think not just to the Congress, but basically to the American people.
WILSON: Do you agree with that assessment? Do you think it would have come out differently?
ROBERTS: I don't know. There were four things that we took a look at in regards to our inquiry. One obviously, was whether or not Saddam Hussein had the weapons of mass destruction and represented a threat to our national security. The one that links to terrorism. There is some evidence that there was a safe haven there. And there were — there was contact of the terrorists, certainly the terrorists in regards to Palestine. But no real evidence of any kind of operational training.
But there are two others. And one of them is he still a threat to regional stability? And he did have the missile capability to certainly make that kind of a threat, more especially in regards to Israel. And secondly is the human rights issue. Now, this country went to war in regards to Bosnia (search) and to Kosovo (search), and according to President Clinton, should have in regards to Rwanda. And then you go back to Cambodia. I don't know if the case would have been presented that strong and if the Senate would have approved any military action.
But then on the other side of it, you know, the U.N. had passed how many resolutions? Fourteen. Then you had 500,000 people killed by this man. Raped, tortured, you know, buried alive. I stood at a gravesite at a place called Hilla, where 18,000 people were being unearthed one at a time. So while the intelligence was flawed, I think most people understand that it's a good thing that Saddam Hussein is not the current dictator of Iraq.
WILSON: Let me ask you this question. You've had a year now to work on this report. You've looked back with a great deal of scrutiny, and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Which is almost more perfect, than when things are happening in real time. And you are making decisions based on day-of intelligence. And you are doing it in a very short time frame.
Do you feel perhaps that the CIA is due a little slack, given the fact that you had a year to look at it and found every mistake they made. They had to do it in real time on the fly — Senator.
ROCKEFELLER: I think Pat Roberts and I both agreed that making the CIA the total fall guy, so to speak, on this is not fair. That we — I stood on that same hill with you in Iraq, and we've been to various places together, where the CIA is doing absolutely unbelievable things. And their analysts and collectors, and you know, it's an extraordinary effort. But in sum, they got it wrong on the evidence that we were all presented, on which we made our decision to go to war.
WILSON: I want to run up a graphic that we have prepared. This actually came from your Web site. I was curious as to what was the mandate of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"The Select Committee on Intelligence shall make every effort to assure that the appropriate departments and agencies of the U.S. provide informed and timely intelligence necessary, for the executive-legist branch to make sound decisions affecting the security and vital interests of the nation."
It goes one step further. Take a look at the next one.
"It is further the purpose of this resolution to provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States."
WILSON: And I guess my question is you have top-secret clearances, you've got a staff. You have subpoena power. Where were you before all this happened? Why didn't we know that there was, for example, as you said today, Senator Roberts, a lack of human intelligence? Isn't that something you could have fixed before rather than later?
ROBERTS: I sure would have liked ... we could have fixed before. But this has been a year's effort. We've interviewed 240 analysts. This report is 511-pages long. It took 10 staffers a year. I thought it could be done in six months, and then I said nine months. And then it was very difficult both working with the CIA. And every member had their say. And so it has taken some time.
But you were right. The committee has what I call these oh, my God hearings every time we have something that is a terrible tragedy. Whether it's the embassy bombings in Africa or the USS Cole, or the Khartoum, you know, chemical plant. Most of those are errors, or the prediction in regards to the nuclear test that India conducted. And so we really have to get after that as best we can with our oversight.
One of the things that both Jay and I want to do is propose needed changes and reforms. And then we have to change as well in regards to our congressional oversight responsibility. Now, there are several things we can do. We can get regular funding, consistent funding for the intelligence committee instead of relying on these supplemental bills. We have a reform in the current Intelligence Authorization act to end term limits, so experienced people can stay. And there's a whole series of things that we can do better, but we bear part of that responsibility.
WILSON: Very quickly, Senator Rockefeller. We have just a few seconds left. But I want to ask you, Senator Rockefeller, do you have any problem if the president appoints a new CIA director.
ROCKEFELLER: No. And I would hope that the president would appoint a new CIA director, who is so acceptable to Republicans and Democrats, that no matter what the outcome of election, that he would be there — or she would be there now and in the future.
WILSON: Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us.
ROBERTS: I share that view, by the way.
Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, L.L.C. and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.