Tenet Defends CIA in Detail

Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet delivered a point-by-point defense of U.S. intelligence-gathering and analysis leading up to the Iraq War in a speech delivered at Georgetown University last week.

Tenet adamantly rebuffed some of the criticism directed at his agency by David Kay, who resigned last month as director of the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group (ISG), telling the Senate Armed Service Committee, “[W]e were almost all wrong.”

Of Kay’s assertion that the ISG is 85% done with its work, Tenet said, “Despite some public statements, we are nowhere near 85% finished. The men and women who work in that dangerous environment are adamant about that fact.”

Whereas Kay said the “consensus opinion” of the intelligence community was that two specially outfitted trailers found in Iraq were not intended for bio-weapons production, Tenet said, “There is no consensus within our intelligence community today over whether the trailers were for that use [producing bio-weapons] or if they were used for the production of hydrogen.”

“Everyone agrees,” said Tenet, “that they are not ideally configured for either process but could be made to work in either mode.”

Among Tenet’s points:

  • Iraq Had a Secret Missile Program: “Since the war we have found an aggressive Iraqi missile program concealed from the international community.”
  • Iraq Was Seeking North Korean Missile Technology: “Significantly, the Iraq Survey Group has also confirmed prewar intelligence that Iraq was in secret negotiations with North Korea to obtain some of its most dangerous missile technology.”
  • Iraq Was Working on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: “The question of intent, especially regarding the smaller unmanned aerial vehicle, is still out there. But we should remember that the Iraqis flight-tested an aerial biological weapons spray system intended for a large unmanned aerial vehicle. 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”
  • Iraq Still Wanted a Nuclear Weapon: “David Kay told us last fall, that, ‘The testimony we have obtained from Iraqi scientists and senior government officials should clear up any doubts about whether Saddam still wanted to obtain nuclear weapons.’ . . . My provisional bottom line today: Saddam did not have nuclear weapons, he still wanted one, and Iraq intended to reconstitute a nuclear program at some point.”
  • Iraq Maintained Secret Bio-Weapons Research: “Last fall the Iraqi Survey Group uncovered, ‘significant information, including research and development of biological weapons, applicable organisms, the involvement of the Iraqi intelligence service in possible biological weapons activities and deliberate concealment activities.’ . . . 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.”

    Although Tenet argued that the U.S. is aggressively rebuilding its human intelligence capabilities??¢â???¬ ¦quot;and cited numerous successes in that field elsewhere, particularly in Libya??¢â???¬ ¦quot;he did concede: “We did not have enough of our own human intelligence. We did not ourselves penetrate the inner sanctum.”

    Instead, “[W]e had a steady stream of reporting with access to the Iraqi leadership come to us from a trusted foreign partner.” One such source “with access to senior Iraqi officials said he believed production of chemical and biological weapons was taking place, the biological agents were easy to produce and hide, and that prohibited chemicals were also being produced. . . . The source said that there was an elaborate plan to deceive inspectors and ensure prohibited items would never be found.

    “Now, did this information make any difference in my thinking?” asked Tenet. “You bet it did.”