Dianne Feinstein

Los Angeles Town Hall Meeting - July 17, 2004

Dianne Feinstein
July 17, 2004— Beverly Hills, California
Town Hall Meeting
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What I want to talk to you about today comes from my work on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I've served there for the last four years and was part of the Joint Senate House Investigation following 9/11. And we have just put forward a report on the intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq, and I'm going to talk a little bit about that.

On October 10, 2002, 77 members of the United States Senate voted to provide the President authorization to use force against Iraq . It was one of the most difficult votes that any of us would ever cast. As a member of the Intelligence Committee, I was privy to intelligence on an ongoing basis. I was also able to review the classified versions of the one analytic document produced by the entire 15-agency Intelligence Community - that's called the National Intelligence Estimate - which analyzed Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Program.

The unclassified version, which in our parlance is called a white paper, was made available to the public. A separate one-page summary was presented to the President. The White House, citing executive privilege, has refused to release this document.

The National Intelligence Estimate, presented to the committee on October 1, less than two weeks before the vote, made several important judgments that have proven to be faulty. Let me share four.

The first, and I quote: 'We judge that Iraq has continued its Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs, in defiance of United Nations resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles, that range in excess of United Nations restrictions. If left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade.'

Conclusion two: 'We assess that Baghdad has begun renewed production of sarin, mustard, cyclo-sarin, and VX. Its capability is probably more limited now than it was at the time of the Gulf War, although VX production and agent storage life probably have been improved.'

Number three: 'We judge that all key aspects, research and development, production, and weaponization of Iraq's' offensive BW' - that's biological weapons program - 'are active and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War.'

Conclusion 4: 'Iraq maintains a small missile force and several development programs including a UAV' - that's an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle - 'probably intended to deliver Biological Warfare agents.'

There are also many statements made by the Administration before the Senate vote, which combined with the intelligence, created a strong case that Iraq was a serious and immediate threat to the United States's interests and to America itself.

Let me give you a few examples.

  • Vice President Cheney, on August 26, 2002, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention said, 'We know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.'

  • Secretary of State Powell, on September 8 th, 2002, said on Fox News Sunday, 'There is no doubt that he has chemical weapons stocks.' He also said, 'With respect to biological weapons, we are confident, we are confident, that he has some stocks of those weapons, and he is probably continuing to try to develop more.'

  • President Bush, on September 12, 2002, said in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, 'Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.' Right now.

  • President Bush in his October 7 - remember we took the vote October 10 - in his October 7th, 2002 speech in Cincinnati he said, and I quote, 'We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents including Mustard gas, Sarin nerve gas, and VX nerve gas.' In the same speech he continued, 'Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that might come in the form of a mushroom cloud.'

And after the Senate vote, as the nation prepared to go to war, Secretary Powell went before the whole world on February 5 th, 2003 in an address to the United Nations Security Council, and here is what he said, 'Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agents. That's enough to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets. Even the low end of 100 tons of agent would enable Saddam Hussein to cause mass casualties across more than 100 square miles of territory, an area nearly 5 times the size of Manhattan. When will we see the rest of the submerged iceberg,' he asked. 'Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein has used such weapons. And Saddam Hussein has no compunction about using them again, against his neighbors, and against his own people.'

It is now more than a year after the fall of Saddam, and neither the military examination of more than a thousand high priority sites, nor the interim findings of the Iraq survey group - that's a special group of more than a thousand people headed by Dr. David Kay that went to Iraq to help the military to look for these weapons. Dr. Kay resigned. He said he saw no weapons. He doesn't believe there will be any found. His successor has not produced evidence of weapons of mass destruction, the weaponization of chemical or biological elements, or their deployment to battlefield commanders.

So what went wrong? There are several questions critical to understand what went wrong with the pre-war intelligence assessments, which must be answered. But first, were the pre-war intelligence assessments of the dangers posed by Saddam Hussein's regime wrong? Did the Intelligence Community negligently depart from accepted standards of professional competence in performing their collection and analytic tasks? Was the Intelligence Community subject to pressure to reach wrong results through bad analysis? Were the intelligence assessments, reached by the Intelligence Community, fairly represented to Congress and to the American people? In other words, did Administration officials accurately represent the intelligence they were relying upon?

Now let me give you three examples of how the intelligence was both wrong and bad. By bad, I mean that intelligence is the product of unprofessional or negligent analysis. By wrong, I mean that it turns out, in retrospect, that the prediction did not come true. The Secretary of State read before the world at the United Nations a considerable discussion of the presence of mobile biological warfare vans in Iraq, and that information was based on four human sources of information, and he carefully described each source. The fact of the matter is that all four sources were not credible, and that the preparer of the analysis of those sources should have picked that up. This was bad intelligence, pure and simple.

In the case of the analysis of the intelligence that Iraq had small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) that could be smuggled into the United States and used to deliver chemical or biological weapons - this was a major finding in the Intelligence Community, and obviously one that concerned those of us that were privy to it, because this meant, with our loose borders, it was possible to smuggle in a UAV, launch it, or launch it off the coast, with a biological or chemical warhead. Now what were the intelligence facts that we now find? The Air Force analysts who have the real expertise in the area, said the most likely mission for these small UAVs was as aerial targets or for reconnaissance missions. However, their analysis was ignored, and the NIE compiled by the CIA, took the CIA assessment on the basis of conjecture, instead of scientific analysis, and said that these UAVs could be used for biological or chemical purposes. This was the wrong way to produce an analytic product.

Thirdly, in the review of intelligence on aluminum tubes - now aluminum tubes are tubes that are specially crafted to be used in a centrifuge process in the refinement of highly enriched uranium, which is one of the ways of developing a nuclear weapon - Department of Energy analysts, the acknowledged experts in nuclear technology, found that the aluminum tubes were not suitable for a nuclear program. And the State Department's analysts agreed. However, the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency analysts believed these items were intended to be used for a nuclear program. Here there was a difference in intelligence between agencies, but there was no effective process to determine who was right, to assess the credibility of the sources, and to reconcile the differences. Instead, the CIA served as both a participant and an arbiter. This intelligence was both bad and wrong.

As our committee report notes, in assuming Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and let me quote, 'There was combination of systemic weaknesses primarily in analytic trade craft, compounded by a lack of information sharing, poor management, and inadequate intelligence collection.' Bottom line, a lot was done by assumption. What the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of our committee have called 'group think.' In other words, because Saddam once did use weapons of mass destruction, therefore the likelihood is that he is prepared to do it again.

The Committee's report proves beyond all doubt that the present arrangement for collection and analysis between agencies and departments of our government must change. The functional flaws in the Intelligence Community include the absence of any or adequate - what's called 'peer review' and in intelligence parlance its 'red-teaming' - to reconcile different departments and also different analytic views. In other words, people sit down and they red-team. They go at each other. They question assumptions. They ask more information about the human intelligence. If there is satellite intelligence, they review the satellite photos. But, there isn't effort to really reconcile differences.

So there were real problems in the collection and analysis of the dots - the random pieces of intelligence that come in in very large numbers, in many different ways. Analysts are expected to provide findings on which policy makers can act, and we're not provided adequate information about the human sources they were evaluating, to be able to fully assess their credibility. This is a very real flaw in our intelligence analysis.

The Committee's report does not acknowledge that the intelligence estimates were shaped by the Administration. In my view this still remains an open question and it needs more careful scrutiny, and we're about to engage in the second part now of our investigation, which is to examine the use of this intelligence made by Administration officials. Unless Administration officials, from the President on down, had information not made available to the Senate Intelligence Committee, there was clearly in my view an exaggeration of either an imminent or a grave and growing threat to the American people.

Now, where do we go from here? To help ensure that these mistakes are never repeated, it is absolutely imperative that we carefully reexamine and reevaluate our entire Unites States Intelligence Community, and take steps to improve its effectiveness, and its accuracy in this new world of non-state terror. Today we have 15 different intelligence agencies. We spend tens of millions of dollars of money in what's called a 'black budget', which means it's classified and I can't share the numbers with you. But a majority of these departments answer to the Secretary of Defense, who controls 80 percent of the dollars spent by these 15 agencies. The rest go to an individual called the DCI, the Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, who just resigned last Sunday. Although the CIA director is in charge of the entire community, he has no real budgetary or management authority across the full spectrum of agencies. What we do, we call that budgetary and statutory authority, and without it you can't do anything. You can't control personnel. And you can't control how the money is spent. You effectively can't control the policy that comes out of the dollars. So what it does is it perpetuates a stovepipe mentality, since each agency is managed and budgeted separately.

Today's intelligence mission is very different from the Cold War mission. So the community structure needs to be looked at with a view that this shadowy world has now become a top priority and requires a different approach. Remember, America 's intelligence community grew out of World War II. It was created in 1947 with the National Security Act, and there was just the CIA and a few other agencies. Since that time it has grown, but in '47 this was a bipolar world, and the Soviets were a kind of distorted mirror image of ourselves. So the intelligence was conducted in a state versus state, CIA versus KGB type of mentality. Today's challenge is very different.

So I believe it's time for major change. We need a true leader of the entire Intelligence Community. One who would have control over budgets, and personnel, of all departments and agencies with clear lines of authority, accountability, and access directly to the President of the United States. I believe that this individual should be a member of the President's Cabinet. He or she must be a strong and powerful manager, with a full grasp of this new world we're in, and with the ability to set strategies and priorities across all agencies, and hold managers attributable to them.

I have proposed bipartisan legislation - actually, beginning in 2002, 2003, and again in 2004 - for a director of National Intelligence. I am joined in this by the Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller, the former Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham, Senators Olympia Snowe and Trent Lott, Ron Wyden and Barbara Mikulski. And Tuesday, in two days, for the first time after trying all these years, we have our first public hearing of this proposal.

Now we know from decades of experience that split leadership in the Intelligence Community has allowed turf battles, incompatible information systems and uncoordinated operations to fester. Saddled with the Soviet-era structure, in a post-Soviet world, it's not surprising that we're losing the intelligence battle. Nor should it be unexpected that many of the members of the Intelligence Community, including the CIA, the FBI, and National Security Agency, are struggling to understand, to infiltrate, and to analyze the non-Western terrorist Islamic world against which we must now defend ourselves. We can and we must do better.

I think it's important for all Americans to take a look at the 511 page report. Twenty percent of it is redacted so some of it is difficult to read. The Intelligence Community redacted 50 percent of it originally, I think because they did not want this information known, not because it jeopardized sources and methods. It's now down to 20 percent, and I hope one day it'll be down to zero. But the report and our conclusions make very clear that we've got to make changes. Not only must we have a real director of the entire Intelligence Community, but we've got to also review the methodology used to collect and analyze the dots, see that processes are in place to balance different points of view through various peer review methods, or red-teaming as I spoke about, and encourage alternative analysis as well.

In the coming weeks we've got to look more deeply into whether the administration pressured the intelligence agencies to come up with findings that supported going to war, and whether the intelligence was used appropriately by the Administration as it moved to convince Congress to authorize the use of force.

I want to end by speaking a few words about where we are in Iraq . Regardless of what one's opinion of the intelligence that was used to make the case for war, I believe, given the current situation, we have to stay the course, and I want to share with you why. Because not to do so would probably enable the creation of a major terrorist state, and seriously destabilize a region vital to our national security. Since before the invasion, our troops have served valiantly, and we must always honor and never forget those who made the supreme sacrifice, among them more than 100 Californians. But as long as Iraq continues to be unstable, we must enable the transition to a secure and safe country for the people of Iraq . We started this thing, we have to finish it, so that the Iraqi people are safe.

Despite difficulties, there's been substantial progress transforming Iraq from a brutal dictatorship under Saddam, to a free and democratically governed country. On June 28 th, just a few weeks ago, the Coalition Provisional Authority turned over power to Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the interim Iraqi government. That really was a seminal moment. It could eventually lead to the blossoming of a state - a free and open state. Or it could lead to a return to chaos, to civil war, a possibility of dictatorial rule, and even the emergence of a major terrorist state in the middle of the Middle Eastern powder keg.

The Iraqi Governing Council, for instance, has established an independent central bank, a stock market, an independent judiciary, and a bill of rights. I'll never forget Saddam Hussein being brought before a young Iraqi judge, for Iraqi justice. Maintaining these institutions could be a major step forward for the people of Iraq. But from today's vantage point, it's still too early to say how things will turn out. But in order to assure success, we must help bring the security situation under control. And that's a difficult mission, because just this past week, two separate car bombers killed 21 innocent Iraqis. And these were followed by several other blasts that killed at least one other Iraqi civilian and wounded many others.

Last month, the number one terrorist leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zargawi, threatened to assassinate Iraq's interim Prime Minister and fight the Americans until quote, 'Islamic rule is back on Earth.' On Thursday, he took responsibility for the assassination of the Governor of Nineveh, one of Iraq's largest provinces. And just today they tried to kill the Minister of Justice, resulting in the killing of four of his bodyguards. Thank heavens he is alright.

So security is a prerequisite for democracy. If the security situation in Iraq doesn't improve, it puts at risk everything that has been gained thus far. So an effective program to equip and train Iraqi security services, including the police and the army, is vital, so that Americans call pull out and Iraqis can take over their duties. At the same time, the borders must be secured because terrorist insurgents come in everyday, the infrastructure must be rebuilt and jobs must be produced. Just as we get the power turned on, the insurgents and the terrorists sabotage it. Just as we get the sewer system to work, they sabotage it. There have been almost 100 attacks on oil lines to prevent oil production, and it goes on and on and on. Let me quote Lt. General Thomas Metz, who has commanded for us the new Multinational Corps in Iraq headquarters since May 15 th of this year, and he says this, 'What people will see that's different is a change of our priorities. We believe that one of the potential vulnerabilities of the country is the infrastructure, so we're going to work harder to protect the infrastructure, and if I can go into Sadr City with an economic program, and employ another 10 percent of the people, that's a certain percentage that I've taken off of the battlefield, and that gives me more assets to put against the bad guys.'

Now, whether you believe that Iraq is the central front in the war against terror, or a diversion from our real goals, there can be no doubt that civil war, or sustained terrorism in Iraq would be a major setback to our efforts to stem the tide of terror, because it would show that terror can work, and terror can survive, and terror can grow and flourish, and this must not happen.

So the mission is not yet accomplished. But the people of Iraq have been given an opportunity to achieve a stable, and perhaps even a democratic government. In that effort they truly do deserve our support. Thank you very, very much.