September 25, 2003
The Honorable George J.
Director of Central Intelligence
Washington, DC 20505
Dear Mr. Tenet:
At the outset, we reaffirm our support for the dedicated men and women working in the Intelligence Community (IC). Their deep commitment to our country and to their profession is evident. The nation owes these professional men and women its gratitude for their tireless efforts to provide policymakers with the intelligence they need to make informed decisions about the security of Americans at home and in places like Iraq.
Thank you, again, for promptly responding to the Committee's request for all intelligence information related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities, as well as any ties to terrorist organizations, including al-Qa'ida. The Committee has reviewed all 19 volumes of material that you provided. Additionally, it has held several closed hearings and an open hearing, conducted a number of interviews, made several oversight trips to Iraq, and reviewed additional materials over the last four months. Although the Committee's work continues, we have some preliminary views that we offer so that the IC can begin to consider necessary improvements. In addition, we offer these views to provide you a chance to answer questions or clarify any issues that will assist us in concluding our review.
At this point, several months into our review, we believe there were significant deficiencies with respect to the IC's intelligence collection activities concerning Iraq's WMD programs and ties to al-Qa'ida prior to the commencement of hostilities there.
We have a fundamental disagreement generally on whether the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's WMD programs and the intelligence on Iraq's ties to al-Qa'ida were deficient with regard to the analysis and presentation, especially in the certainty of the IC's judgments. The Ranking Member believes it was. The Chairman believes it was not.
Additionally, the Committee is also reviewing the intelligence assessments that existed pre-March 2003 regarding the nature and level of resistance that U.S. troops could expect in Iraq and the health of Iraq's civilian infrastructure.
In October 2002, the Intelligence Community produced a National Intelligence Estimate that included statements that "We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons . . ." and "in the view of most agencies, Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons programs." (Iraq's Continuing Programs of Weapons of Mass Destruction at p. 5 (hereafter "NIE")). The Committee thoroughly reviewed the underlying intelligence supporting these conclusions, that you have provided, as well as the reporting from the early efforts to locate WMD after the cessation of major military action in Iraq. Thus far, it appears that these judgments were based on too many uncertainties.
Iraq's possession of chemical and biological weapons
The U.S. and the U.K. took limited air strikes in 1998 (Operation Desert Fox), based on Iraq's lack of cooperation and violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding weapons of mass destruction. In early 1998, while the UN inspectors were still in Iraq and providing some amount of solid information about the WMD programs, the IC's judgments were based, in substantial part, on circumstantial information. Such information -- among other things -- identified: gaps and inconsistencies in Iraq's WMD declarations to the UN; Iraq's obstruction of United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspections and monitoring activities; Saddam's efforts to declare certain sites exempt from inspections; and Saddam's efforts to end inspections entirely.
After the departure of UN weapons inspectors and Operation Desert Fox in 1998, some new information continued to be developed on Iraq's capabilities, but access to "ground truth" corroboration was lost. The IC was also faced with the daunting challenge of trying to interpret snippets of information in an environment where the regime was engaged in massive denial and deception efforts. Based on past assessments and some new "piecemeal" intelligence, which was otherwise seemingly valid, the Community's analysis of Iraq's WMD programs and capabilities reflected an assumption that these long-standing judgments on the issue were still valid. The absence of proof that chemical and biological weapons and their related development programs had been destroyed was considered as proof that they continued to exist.
The dearth of post-1998 underlying intelligence reflects a weakness in intelligence collection. The Committee on a number of occasions in the past expressed its concern that the IC was facing serious shortfalls in specific areas of intelligence collection -- to include intelligence from human sources (HUMINT) and from technologies designed to tell us about weapons development (Measurement and Signatures Intelligence, or MASINT). The issues presented with respect to Iraq's WMD programs and capabilities appear to be a case in point. Lack of specific intelligence on regime plans and intentions, WMD, and Iraq's support to terrorist groups appears to have hampered the IC's ability to provide a better assessment to the policymakers from 1998 though 2003.
Iraq has held a place of priority in U.S. foreign policy and national security during successive Administrations. For instance, in 1998 U.S. policy toward Iraq was clarified by Congress and the President to reflect an unequivocal policy to seek regime change. See Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-338 Oct. 31, 1998). Given the high priority placed on Iraq policy, we believe greater efforts should have been made to acquire more and better sources of information -- particularly well-targeted, close-in HUMINT.
Reconstitution of Iraq's Nuclear Weapons Program
In October 2002, the NIE on Iraq's WMD programs made a statement about Iraq's nuclear program, " . . . in the view of most agencies, Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program." (NIE at page 5.) The NIE cited six factors in making this judgment:
• Iraq's aggressive pursuit of high-strength aluminum tubes;
• Iraq's attempts to obtain permanent magnet production capability;
• Iraq's attempts to obtain high-speed balancing machines;
• Iraq's attempts to obtain computer-controlled machine tools;
• Iraq's efforts to re-establish and enhance its cadre of weapons personnel, which included appearances by Saddam on Iraqi TV exhorting his nuclear scientists; and
• Activities at suspected nuclear sites.
Our examination has identified the relatively fragile nature of this information. With respect to the aluminum tubes, as was stated in the NIE, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), citing the Department of Energy (DoE) analysis, disagreed with the view that these tubes were intended for Iraq's nuclear program. The other items that Iraq was seeking (permanent magnet production capability, high-speed balancing machines, and computer-controlled machine tools), in addition to having utility in a nuclear weapons program, also have civilian uses. Other elements of information available to the IC on the topic of nuclear reconstitution may have been susceptible to Iraqi denial and deception efforts. These included trying to determine the nature of Iraqi activities at suspected nuclear sites or the purpose of Saddam's TV appearances exhorting his nuclear scientists. We have not found any information in the assessments that are still classified that was any more definitive.
IRAQ'S TIES TO TERRORISTS, INCLUDING AL-QA'IDA
The Committee has reviewed the three volumes of information provided by you on Iraq's ties to terrorism, most of which remains classified. We have found no reason to question the State Department's decision to designate Iraq as a state sponsor of terrorism for at least a decade.
On the issue of Iraq's ties to al-Qa'ida, however, we believe substantial gaps in collection -- particularly HUMINT -- contributed to the Intelligence Community's inability to give policymakers a clear understanding of the nature of the relationship.
In place of an assessment characterizing the relationship between Saddam and al-Qa'ida, the Intelligence Community reported on possible contacts between al-Qa'ida associates and Iraq. As in other cases of IC reporting on terrorism generally, we believe that there was either a "low threshold" or "no threshold" for disseminating information on ties between Iraq and al-Qa'ida. As a result, intelligence reports that might have been screened out by a more rigorous vetting process made their way to the analysts' desks, providing ample room for vagary to intrude. Although the Intelligence Community often noted that the reports were "from sources of varying reliability," these reports did not make clear which of them were from sources that were credible and which were from sources that would otherwise be dismissed in the absence of any other corroborating intelligence.
NATURE OF IRAQI RESISTANCE AND THE STATE OF IRAQ'S INFRASTRUCTURE
In addition to these two issues, we are concerned whether the policymakers were warned adequately about the nature and level of resistance our troops would face in Iraq, or about the dilapidated state of Iraq's civilian infrastructure. The Committee will be reviewing the intelligence available to policymakers prior to the commencement of hostilities to determine if there were shortcomings in the support provided on these issues. The Committee will seek to understand what requirements were levied on the IC prior to the invasion, what assessments were made, whether the assessments were completed in a timely manner, and, with the benefit of hindsight, how well the assessments match what has been found in Iraq since the cessation of major hostilities.
POLICYMAKERS STATEMENT ON IRAQ
The Committee has reviewed extensively allegations that there was a disconnect between public statements by Administration officials and the underlying intelligence. The Committee's purview does not extend to the formulation or articulation of foreign policy. We do believe, however, that if public officials cite intelligence incorrectly, the IC has a responsibility to go back to that policymaker and make clear that the public statement mischaracterized the available intelligence. The IC exists to inform policymakers on matters of foreign intelligence. It does not make policy. The IC is one of many sources of information available to policymakers. Policymakers are under no obligation to believe or adhere to the IC's judgments. Nor should the IC dictate U.S. foreign policy.
The assessment that Iraq continued to pursue chemical and biological weapons remained constant and static over the past ten years. The U.S. understanding of Iraq's ties to terror groups was also longstanding. We note, however, that there was insufficient specific information regarding the following:
• Saddam's plans and intentions,
• the status of Iraq's WMD programs and capabilities, and
• Iraq's links to al-Qa'ida, specifically.
The intelligence available to the U.S. on Iraq's possession of WMD and its programs and capabilities relating to such weapons after 1998, and its links to al-Qa'ida, was fragmentary and sporadic. These assessments and long-standing judgments were not challenged as a routine matter within the IC. Saddam Hussein, for his part, apparently made no effort to dispel the conclusions that he possessed weapons of mass destruction, had programs in place to produce them and had the capabilities to deliver them, or that he had links to terrorist groups.
Underlying these problem areas were serious deficiencies in our HUMINT collection capabilities against this target. HPSCI has consistently recommended greater management attention and allocation of resources to core intelligence mission areas -- such as HUMINT and analysis. We believe Iraq is, in many ways, a case study for improvements in these areas.
We would appreciate your response to the issues raised in this letter. In addition, we seek your assurance that the shortcomings identified will be promptly addressed. Finally, we intend to have additional hearings, open and closed, as appropriate.
Porter J. Goss, Chairman
Jane Harman, Ranking Democrat
1 October 2003
The Honorable Porter J.
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Chairman:
Your letter of September 25 raises serious issues about the Intelligence Community's judgments regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's ties to terrorism. Unfortunately, the letter does so in ways that makes more difficult a reasoned and serious dialogue. This is particularly the case because the Committee has seen fit to introduce the letter in the press before providing the Intelligence Community any reasonable opportunity to respond.
The timing of the letter comes as a surprise. In our view, the Committee is not yet in a position to evaluate fully the Community's work on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs nor Iraq's ties to terrorism. We have not had the sort of interactions with the Committee that are necessary to explain the particulars of our analytic judgments. The two sessions the Committee had with analysts in June, a hearing on the Iraq-Niger controversy in July, and interviews with former DDCI Dick Kerr and our ombudsman in September, in our judgment, do not offer the kind of exchange necessary to provide the Committee with sufficient information upon which to base even the "preliminary views" your letter sets forth.
Moreover, you have chosen to evaluate these complicated and difficult subjects without the benefit of hearing from David Kay. While Dr. Kay is not prepared to draw conclusions at this point, the Committee might have benefited from his expertise as a key weapons inspector in Iraq before you proposed even "preliminary views" on the quality of our analysis.
David Kay's work is but one of a number of activities we have commissioned in an effort to evaluate our assessments about Iraq. As you will recall, six months ago I asked former Deputy Director Dick Kerr to report on the Community's analytic efforts on Iraq. The first part of his report has been submitted to the Committee. It clearly establishes a benchmark of our entire record -- not just the October 2002 estimate -- against which the reality of what Saddam Hussein did and did not do, will be compared. As you know, we deferred the second part of the Kerr study until David Kay completes his important work. As professionals, we felt to do otherwise would be unfair to the truth, as best we can know it.
The suggestion by the Committee that we did not challenge longstanding judgments and assessments is simply wrong. Challenging our judgments, our information, and the sources that provide such information is in fact a standard procedure in the Intelligence Community, pursued with integrity and intellectual vigor. Estimating is an iterative process; as new information is obtained, judgments, even ones of long standing, are reviewed and revised. Judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs were no exception. This type of review, with challenges to judgments and expressions of dissent, was carried out fully in the October 2002 Iraq WMD estimate.
Years before and after the Gulf War, we vigorously collected against the Iraqi target and analyzed its programs of weapons of mass destruction. When inspections ceased in 1998, the Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Collection conducted a thorough study of Iraq collection challenges and directed a sustained and intense collections effort to enable us to continue make the best possible assessments about compartmented activities in what had become a denied area. Through these efforts, gains were made in each collection discipline. To my knowledge, the Committee has never sought to understand the results of these collection initiatives before providing us your letter.
I emphatically disagree with the Committee's view that intelligence reports on Iraq's ties to al-Qa'ida should have been "screened out by a more rigorous vetting process" before they were provided to analysts. Reports in this area, as well as others, are carefully caveated. It is a central feature of analytic tradecraft to work through a variety of information, some solid, others fragmentary and inconclusive, in making assessments. Providing analysts less information on Iraq's connections to terrorists makes no sense to me.
I know you share our view that Iraq was an intractable and difficult subject. We rarely have the luxury of having all the facts before we have to arrive at conclusions. The judgments reached, and the tradecraft used, were honest and professional, based on many years of effort and experience.
George J. Tenet