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Tenet defends CIA on Iraq intelligence

Tenet:
Tenet: "We will always call it as we see it."

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George Tenet summarizes CIA's pre-war intelligence on Iraq.
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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's comments on prewar intelligence.
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Tony Blair's confirmation of a British inquiry into prewar intelligence.
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George J. Tenet
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Chemical Warfare
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KEY POINTS OF SPEECH
Right or wrong on WMD?
"... when the facts of Iraq are all in, we will neither be completely right nor completely wrong."

Influence of politics:
"No one told us what to say or how to say it."

Ongoing process:

Search for WMD continues. "We are nowhere near 85 percent finished."

Imminent threat:
CIA analysts "never said there was an imminent threat."

Intelligence successes:
Human intelligence helped capture masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, the attack on the USS Cole and the Bali nightclub bombing. 

Tenet defends Iraq WMD intelligence

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- CIA Director George Tenet defended the U.S. intelligence estimate of Iraq's suspected weapons programs before last year's U.S.-led invasion, saying the agency "will never be completely right or completely wrong" when the facts are in.

Tenet also rejected suggestions that political pressure influenced the CIA's assessment of Iraq, saying "We will always call it as we see it."

"Unfortunately, you rarely hear a patient, careful or thoughtful discussion of intelligence these days," he said during a speech at Georgetown University. "But these times demand it, because the alternative -- politicized, haphazard evaluation without the benefit of time and facts -- may well result in an intelligence community that is damaged and a country that is more at risk."

"Analysts differed on several important aspects of these programs and those debates were spelled out in the estimate," Tenet said. "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."

Later, Tenet outlined the facts as the CIA knows them today. "Since the war we have found an aggressive Iraqi missile program concealed from the international community.

"In fact, [former top U.S. weapons inspector] David Kay just last fall said that the Iraq Survey Group, quote, 'discovered sufficient evidence to date to conclude that the Iraqi regime was committed to delivery system improvements that would have, if Operation Iraqi Freedom had not occurred, dramatically breached U.N. restrictions placed on Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War,' " Tenet said.

"We have also found that Iraq had plans and advanced design work for a liquid-propellant missile with ranges of up to 1,000 kilometers; activity that Iraq did not report to the U.N. and which could have placed large portions of the Middle East in jeopardy.

"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," Tenet said. "My provisional bottom line on missiles: We were generally on target."

The speech gave Tenet an opportunity to respond to last week's Senate testimony from Kay, who was critical of intelligence given to the Bush administration about Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction leading up to the war. (Full story)

During his testimony last week on Capitol Hill, Kay told a Senate panel his team, the Iraq Survey Group, hasn't found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and said he didn't believe significant stockpiles of such weapons would be found.

"It turns out we were all wrong, and that is most disturbing," Kay said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing during which he called for an independent probe of the apparent intelligence failure.

Tenet said U.S. intelligence had evidence to suggest that Saddam planned to restart his efforts to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, that U.N. inspectors were unable to fully account for Iraq's pre-1991 arsenal and had intelligence gathered after inspectors left in 1998 to suggest Iraq was trying to conceal prohibited weapons.

"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," Tenet said. "It is important to underline the word estimate, because not everything we analyze can be known to a standard of absolute proof."

President Bush announced Monday that he would appoint a presidential commission to review U.S. intelligence on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. (Full story)

Kay put the blame firmly on the shoulders of U.S. intelligence, rather than the White House, for statements by Bush and others predicting weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq.

Tenet's speech comes a day after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told senators he is not ready to conclude that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction before U.S. troops invaded to depose Saddam Hussein last year.

Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee that U.S. weapons inspectors need more time to reach final conclusions about whether chemical and biological weapons existed in Iraq before the war, as the Bush administration had asserted before sending American troops into battle. (Full story)


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