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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Interview with James Woolsey

Aired October 10, 2002 - 12:23   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: According to CIA Director George Tenet, if there is a U.S.-led attack on Iraq, Baghdad is more likely to use biological or chemical weapons on the United States. The Tenet letter is one of the issues in our one-on-one interview now with the former CIA director James Woolsey -- Mr. Woolsey, thanks for joining us.
Let me read to you from that declassified letter that Tenet sent to Bob Graham, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions. Such terrorism might involve conventional means, or chemical or biological weapons."

Is it unusual to offer that kind of assessment, declassified, to the Senate Intelligence Committee to be made public?

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: Well, I think what happened was that this was given in testimony before the committee...

BLITZER: Behind closed doors.

WOOLSEY: Behind closed doors, and then the chairman, Senator Graham, I think, pressed for it to be released, and if the agency doesn't have a reason to protect sources and methods, and it doesn't sound like there were any given away here, this is really basically their judgment -- not a piece of intelligence, not a stolen secret, it is just what they think. And I must say, I see it differently.

BLITZER: Well, what do you see?

WOOLSEY: Well, I think that they -- in this document, overstress the difference between the likelihood that Saddam might use -- or let terrorists use weapons of mass destruction whether we attack or don't.

They say if we attack, it's reasonably likely. If we don't, then it's reasonably unlikely. I think that's wrong. I think that Saddam is a megalomaniac surrounded by sycophants. He does not have an accurate picture of the outside world. He started two wars that went quite badly for him, thinking it would be easy, and I think the chance that he would believe that he could, for example, give biological weapons to terrorist groups, let's say anthrax, and not have us know that he did it, might reasonably create a circumstance in which he would use weapons that way, whether we attacked or not.

BLITZER: I've spoken to people in the intelligence community in the U.S., and they say there's really no hard evidence that he's done that in the past, given weapons of mass destruction capabilities to terrorist groups.

WOOLSEY: I think that's true, but there's two points to make. One is, hard evidence is the wrong standard for international affairs. We're not in a courtroom here. We have to make judgments about capabilities and intentions, and on both of those counts he is about as bad as one could have.

Secondly, Don Rumsfeld said it very well in the Rumsfeld Commission four years ago, which I served on with him. He says absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and just because they don't have satellite photographs of Saddam's chief of staff handing anthrax over to al Qaeda or whatever, doesn't mean that there hasn't been some contacts.

We do see, in this new CIA document, that the Iraqi intelligence has been training al Qaeda in the use of, as they put it, poisons and gases.

So, it's -- they're at least backing off this position, apparently, that they had for some months there was no contact between al Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence, and now they chronicle four or five instances in this recent document.

BLITZER: Let me read to you an e-mail we got from John in Fort Pierce, Florida. A question for you -- "how much of this Iraq business is about oil? If we 'liberate' Iraq, and station troops there, do we control the oil? And do we decide who, besides the U.S. has access to it?"

WOOLSEY: Well, we don't need to control the oil, we just need, I think, to free Iraq and the Iraqi people ought to decide who to sell their oil to and how. But I must say, I think that if the French and Russians, whose oil companies are very much in bed with Saddam right now, make it hard for us to move with allies to replace this regime, and then, after there's a new, and hopefully, Democratic or at least moving toward Democratic, Iraqi regime, the French and Russians come to us and say, You know, this new Iraqi regime isn't returning our phone calls, could you help?

You know what I think? I might say, I can't seem to find where I put your phone number. I don't see any particular reason that we should give the Russians and French the idea that we're going to do all the work and make things easy for Total and Elf and Luke (ph) Oil to profit greatly by Iraq's oil. It's not that we need to, just need to have it on the market, but I don't see why they should.

BLITZER: All right. James Woolsey. Always good to have you on the show. Thanks very much.

WOOLSEY: Good to be with you.

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