chief deflates Bush's claims
‘weapons of mass destruction’
EXCERPTS FROM SPEECH BY CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
DIRECTOR GEORGE TENET AT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY IN
WASHINGTON ON FEB. 5, 2004. EMPHASIS, CLARIFICATIONS [IN
BRACKETS] AND SUBHEADS WERE ADDED BY PROGRESO WEEKLY.
question being asked about Iraq in the starkest terms is:
Were we right or were we wrong? In the intelligence
business, you are almost never completely wrong or
That applies in full to the question of Saddam's weapons
of mass destruction. And like many of the toughest
intelligence challenges, when the facts of Iraq are all
in, we will neither be completely right nor completely
... Much of the current controversy centers on our
prewar intelligence, summarized in the national
intelligence estimate of October of 2002. National
estimates are publications where the intelligence
community as a whole seeks to sum up what we know about
a subject, what we don't know, what we suspect may be
happening and where we differ on key issues.
This estimate asked if Iraq had chemical, biological and
nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. We
concluded that in some of these categories
had weapons, and that in others where it did not have
them, it was trying to develop them.
Let me be clear:
on several important aspects of these
those debates were spelled out in the estimate.
They never said there was an imminent threat.
Rather, they painted an objective assessment for our
policy-makers of a brutal dictator who was continuing
his efforts to deceive and build programs that might
constantly surprise us and threaten our interests. No
one told us what to say or how to say it.
THREE STREAMS OF INFORMATION
How did we reach our conclusions? We had three streams
of information; none perfect, but each important.
First, Iraq's history. Everyone knew that Iraq had
chemical and biological weapons in the 1980s and 1990s.
Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran and
his own people on at least 10 different occasions. He
launched missiles against Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
And we couldn't forget that in the early 1990s, we saw
that Iraq was just a few years away from a nuclear
... Our second stream of information was that the United
Nations could not – and Saddam would not – account for
all the weapons the Iraqis had: tons of chemical weapons
precursors, hundreds of artillery shells and bombs
filled with chemical or biological agents.
... The third stream of information came after the U.N.
inspectors left Iraq in 1998. ... In intercepts of
conversations and other transactions, we heard Iraqis
seeking to hide prohibited items, worrying about their
cover stories and trying to procure items
was not permitted to have.
Satellite photos showed a pattern of activity designed
to conceal movement of material from places where
chemical weapons had been stored in the past. We also
saw reconstruction of dual-purpose facilities previously
used to make biological weapons or chemical precursors.
And human sources told us of efforts to acquire and hide
materials used in the production of such weapons.
ESTIMATES, NOT ABSOLUTE PROOF
... Did these strands of information weave into a
perfect picture? Could they answer every question? No,
far from it. But taken together, this information
provided a solid basis on which to estimate whether Iraq
did or did not have weapons of mass destruction and the
means to deliver them.
It is important to underline the word “estimate,”
because not everything we analyze can be known to a
standard of absolute proof.
... Our [intelligence] community said with high
confidence that Saddam was continuing and expanding his
missile programs, contrary to United Nations resolutions.
He had missiles and other systems with ranges in excess
of U.N. restrictions and he was seeking missiles with
even longer ranges.
What do we know today? Since the war we have found an
aggressive Iraqi missile program concealed from the
... The estimate [also] said that
had been developing an unmanned aerial vehicle probably
intended to deliver biological warfare agents. Baghdad's
existing unmanned aerial vehicle could threaten its
neighbors, U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf and, if a
small unmanned aerial vehicle was brought close to our
shores, the United States itself.
... A senior Iraqi official has now admitted that their
two large unmanned vehicles, one developed in the early
'90s and the other under development in late 2000, were
intended for the delivery of biological weapons.
THE INTENTION THERE?
My provisional bottom line today: We detected the
development of prohibited and undeclared unmanned aerial
the jury is still out on whether
Iraq intended to use
newer, smaller unmanned aerial vehicle to deliver
... In the estimate, all agencies agree that Saddam
Hussein wanted nuclear weapons. Most were convinced that
he still had a program and if he obtained fissile
material he could have a weapon within a year.
But we detected no
... We said
that Saddam did not have a nuclear weapon and probably
would have been unable to make one until 2007 to 2009.
Most agencies believed that Saddam had begun to
reconstitute his nuclear program, but they disagreed on
a number of issues, such as which procurement activities
were designed to support his nuclear program. But let me
be clear: Where there are differences, the estimate laid
out the disputes clearly.
... Keep in mind that no intelligence agency thought
that Iraq's efforts had progressed to the point of
building an enrichment facility or making fissile
material. We said that such activities were a few years
away. Therefore it's not surprising that
the Iraq Survey Group
has not yet found evidence of uranium enrichment
NUCLEAR OR BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS
... My provisional bottom line today:
Saddam did not have a
nuclear weapon, he still wanted one, and
Iraq intended to reconstitute a nuclear program at some
We have not yet found clear evidence that the dual-use
items Iraq sought were for nuclear reconstitution. We do
not yet know if any reconstitution efforts had begun.
But we may
have overestimated the progress Saddam was making.
... The Iraq Survey Group found a network of
laboratories and safe houses controlled by Iraqi
intelligence and security services that contained
equipment for chemical and biological research and a
prison laboratory complex possibly used in human testing
for biological weapons agents that were not declared to
the United Nations.
It also appears that Iraq had the infrastructure and the
talent to resume production, but we have yet to find
that it actually did so,
nor have we found [biological]
Until we get to the bottom of the role played by the
Iraqi security services, which were operating covert
labs, we will not know the full extent of the program.
... Let me also talk about the trailers discovered in
Iraq last summer.
We initially concluded that they resembled trailers
described by a human source for mobile biological
warfare agent production. There is no consensus within
our intelligence community today over whether the
trailers were for that use or if they were used for the
production of hydrogen.
Everyone agrees that they are not ideally configured for
either process but could be made to work in either mode.
... We are trying to get to the bottom of this story.
And I must tell you that we are finding discrepancies in
some claims made by human sources about mobile
biological weapons production before the war. Because we
lack direct access to the most important sources on this
question, we have as yet been unable to resolve the
My provisional bottom line today:
intended to develop biological weapons. Clearly,
research and development work was under way that would
have permitted a rapid shift to agent production if seed
stocks were available. But
we do not yet know if
production took place. And just as clearly, we have not
yet found biological weapons.
EVIDENCE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS
... Let me now turn to chemical weapons. We said in the
estimate with high confidence that Iraq had them. We
also believed, though with less certainty, that Saddam
had stocked at least 100 metric tons of agent ... What
do we know today?
The work done so far shows a story similar to that of
his biological weapons program. Saddam had rebuilt a
dual-use industry. ... However, while some sources
indicate Iraq may have conducted some experiments
related to developing chemical weapons,
no physical evidence
has yet been uncovered. We need more
My provisional bottom line today: Saddam had the intent
and capability to quickly convert civilian industry to
chemical weapons production. However,
we have not yet found
the weapons we expected.
... Now, I'm sure you're all asking, “Why haven't we
found the weapons?” I've told you the search must
continue and it will be difficult.
... The Iraqis systematically destroyed and looted
forensic evidence before, during and after the war. We
have been faced with organized destruction of
documentary and computer evidence in a wide range of
offices, laboratories and companies suspected of weapons
of mass destruction work. The pattern of these efforts
is one of deliberate, rather than random, acts. ... Remember,
finding things in
is always very tough.
MANY QUESTIONS REMAIN
... Among the questions that we as a community must ask
are: Did the history of our work, Saddam's deception and
denial, his lack of compliance with the international
community and all that we know about this regime cause
us to minimize or ignore alternative scenarios?
Did the fact that we missed how close Saddam came to
acquiring a nuclear weapon in the early 1990s cause us
to overestimate his nuclear or other programs in 2002?
Did we carefully consider the absence of information
flowing from a repressive and intimidating regime, and
would it have made any difference in our bottom-line
we clearly tell policy makers what we knew, what we
didn't know, what was not clear and identify the gaps in
We are in the process of evaluating just such questions.
THE FULL TEXT OF TENET'S SPEECH CAN BE FOUND IN: