Sen. Pat Roberts, U.S. Senator, Kansas
May 3, 2004
The Adequacy and Quality of Our Intelligence Prior to the Iraq War
Thank you for the honor of speaking as a Landon Lecturer. There are several reasons why I regard this opportunity as a personal privilege.
First, K-State is the pride of three Roberts' generations: my father, Wes, myself and my son, David.
I fully realize that it is most unique, if not unprecedented, for an alum like myself to join the ranks of past speakers including cabinet members, journalists, renowned public figures and presidents, no less.
In this regard, I know two things:
First, this is a pretty impressive and fast crowd I am riding with. I'll do my best to keep up. No doubt, my classmates and contemporaries, who know the unvarnished truth about my academic credentials and other undergraduate learning experiences, are scratching and shaking their heads and wondering how on earth I have achieved this 30 seconds of Andy Warhol and Jon Wefald fame. Well, at K-State, uncommon achievement is a common experience ... or wonders never cease!
Second, my doctor can attest to the fact that I bleed purple regardless of the K-State endeavor. My university, right or wrong. From the bowl games and pep rallies, to working with President Wefald and his excellent staff and faculty, with the full measure of my public service capabilities - I try as hard as I can to follow the example of so many of our K-State alumni - to give back to my university and to do what I can to contribute to K-State's outstanding record of excellence.
Working with K-State's leadership, we have accomplished much with regard to research investment and infrastructure; research that has and will benefit our state and the individual lives, pocketbooks and safety of our Kansas citizens.
It works both ways, K-State does an outstanding job and we, in turn, are in a better position to support and win Federal investment. Let me say it in simple terms. We try to tote the bucket for K-State and not spill a drop. And folks, in terms of what K-State is doing and will do, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
Finally, the Landon Lecture Series was started in 1966 by K-State President James A. McCain right here in McCain Hall. That was eight years after I graduated. But, President McCain used to have a lecture series years before. He would always open and close the lecture. It was required attendance back then -- sit up straight mandatory presence. And, President McCain had a habit of unbuttoning and buttoning his coat during his remarks. It can now be divulged that this habit led to a secret betting pool among PiKA pledges on the number of times he would unbutton and re-button.
And, it sort of caught on. I don't think President McCain ever realized that those sudden bursts of applause or students getting up to leave had very little to do with his remarks. It was just that some were short in the betting pool and wanted him to continue and some were long and wanted him to stop.
Now, if you are thinking about bringing the betting pool back, don't do it today. You need time to plan, and set it up and then try it when Senator Tom Daschle is your speaker in a few weeks.
Ladies and gentlemen, the year was 1999; the place was the Emerging Threats Subcommittee within the Senate Armed Services Committee. The setting: one of numerous hearings held with regard to terrorism and homeland security. As Chairman, I said back in 1999: "Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. What is new, however, is the arsenal of weapons now available to terrorist groups. The modern tools of the terrorist trade may no longer be explosives, conventional battlefield weaponry or truck bombs and suicide bombers.
"The new death machine - employed in the name of God by his self-proclaimed disciples - might spring from a dirty nuclear device, chemical formulas, laboratory vials, or cyber codes.
"These new tools create a real opportunity for a handful of zealots to wreak havoc on a scale that hitherto only armies could attain.
I continued to say back then, "Terrorism is a form of warfare. It is not random violence. It is now driven by visceral hatred toward this nation and all it stands for. Terrorism seeks to instill fear, unnerve governments, undermine policies, and sap public support. Targets are selected carefully and deliberately to further these aims and for their symbolic value - like the World Trade Center in the heart of Manhattan, a U.S. embassy in some world capital or the Khobar Tower in Saudi Arabia.
"Terrorists select their targets and mode of attack in order to maximize the political impact of the attack. And, because terrorists seek to call attention to whatever misguided cause they are pursuing, they need to escalate their attacks making each more spectacular and more horrific than its predecessor. For the terrorist, the world is their stage upon which they perform their hideous acts."
I closed my remarks in the 1999 hearing by saying, "I must tell you, I worry. I worry that for all of the rhetoric - old and new - for all of the organizational reshuffles and newly requested funds, we remain woefully unprepared for what has become the nation's most urgent security challenge."
So, that is what I said in 1999. Bluntly put, it was not as if the dog did not bark before Sept. 11. Over and over again we heard from expert witness after expert witness, commission after commission. I even made it a point to quote Osama bin Laden and warn that if the terrorists had had access to the grid of the World Trade Center back in 1993, thousands would not have come out suffering from smoke inhalation - they would not have come out. But, we could not get traction, even when we authorized funds for consequence management training with the New York Port Authority and the Department of Defense.
And, I must say that in speaking here at home, before many interest groups, business and civic organizations and at our regular listening tours, I would also close my remarks by repeating Osama's threat - and the fact that the oceans no longer protect us. The terrorist threat was very real including that of something called agri-terrorism. But despite this, there was no traction and very little press. One gentleman at a Rotary meeting came up afterwards and asked me: "Pat, are you trying to scare us?" I told him, "Yes, if that is what it takes."
Fortunately, and not surprisingly, I did not have to do much convincing with John Wefald and his food safety team here at K-State. Kansas State University was the first land grant school to testify before Congress regarding the danger terrorism poses to our food supply and in addition laid out the groundwork or blueprint for positive solutions. The results: K-State is now the leader in food safety research initiatives.
During those pre-9-11 years - throughout all of the testimony -- I asked expert after expert "What is the one thing that keeps you up at night?" Without exception they replied the global war against terrorism requires better intelligence. And, that is what brings me here today.
I have the privilege of being the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. We are continuing to spearhead the committee's inquiry into pre-war intelligence with reference to Iraq and in a larger sense the global war against terrorism and our homeland security. The inquiry includes the following:
-First, we are examining the quantity and quality of U.S. intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs, ties to terrorist groups, Saddam Hussein's threat to stability and security in the region and the brutal repression of his own people.
-Second, we're taking a hard look at the objectivity, independence and accuracy of the judgements reached by the Intelligence community; whether those judgements were properly disseminated to policy makers in the Executive Branch and Congress; and whether any influence was brought to bear on anyone to shape their analysis to support policy changes.
- Third, we are also investigating whether public statements, reports and testimony regarding Iraq by U.S. government officials were substantiated by intelligence information. In other words, how was the intelligence used. My committee has created an intelligence matrix by which we can compare public statements made in the Bush Administration, the Clinton Administration, and yes, by members of Congress, as to any differences between the intelligence and the public statements - we want to know whether there was any misuse or manipulation.
I mention members of Congress. Just as the executive "used" the intelligence, the Congress made use of the same information in voting for regime change and for the war and to fund the war. And, it should be pointed out only months ago, many of today's most vocal critics in the Congress - and on the campaign trail - made statements in their understanding of the use of intelligence that were far more declarative and aggressive than the President and the members of his Administration.
The point is that I made the same statements. We all did. I did so as an informed member of the Senate Intelligence Committee after many briefings and hearings and by studying, as the Administration did, the conclusions of the National Intelligence Estimate prior to going to war. The problem is, the information was wrong. As Dr. David Kay, who led the Iraqi Survey Group, put it: "If you read the total body of intelligence in the last 12 to 15 years that flowed on Iraq, I quite frankly think it would be hard to come to a conclusion other than Iraq was a gathering, serious threat to the world with regard to WMD."
Dr. Kay also said that when we have the complete record, we will discover that after 1988, it became a regime that was totally corrupt. Individuals were out for their own protection. And, in a world where we know others are seeking WMD at any cost, it's likely that at some point in time, a well-financed buyer would have found a willing seller - making Iraq a far more dangerous country than even we anticipated.
- Finally, the committee's inquiry will also look at the pre-war intelligence assessments about post-war Iraq. And, you know the news of the day. You know of the sacrifice of our young men and women in uniform. And you know the situation in post-war Iraq is extremely serious and dangerous.
A final report from our committee is very near completion. Our hope is to have it wrapped up by June with public hearings. While I cannot say too much about the report's findings in this forum because it is still a highly classified document, I can tell you that our report does not paint a flattering picture of the performance of our Intelligence Community as they developed their pre-war assessments. It is important to understand, the problems experienced were global in nature and involved the intelligence services of many countries. Almost everyone believed, regardless of how you felt about whether you should have unilateral military action or wait for the UN, there was no disagreement about the belief that weapons of mass destruction existed.
Before the war, there was very little difference of opinion between U.S., British, German, Israeli, Russian, the UN and French, yes, even the French, intelligence with regard to whether or not Iraq had WMD. It is my view this was clearly an intelligence failure as opposed to alleged manipulation. When asked if they had any evidence that any of the 1,400 members of the Iraq Survey Team had been pressured to change their judgements, both Dr. David Kay and Charles Duelfer, the current team leader, stated the analysts were NOT pressured to make certain their pre-war intelligence reports conformed to a White House agenda on Iraq. These views are also consistent with the findings of our committee staff who have interviewed over 200 analysts throughout the Intelligence Community.
Now, I had hoped the Committee could handle this inquiry in a responsible manner untainted by politics. This has been difficult given the circumstances of a presidential election year. I do not question the integrity or patriotism of any member of Congress but I must say some of the criticism and commentary within the Congress has been very harsh and lacking any plausible, realistic or positive alternative. And, I know this, these remarks, this debate is carefully studied, used and doubtlessly manipulated by our terrorist enemies.
I full well realize that politics is a rough and tumble business, but politics should not be reduced to lobbing partisan hand grenades. Politics is not war. Terrorism is. I remain hopeful that once we make our report public, we will then get to the business of recommending and implementing reforms and changes to the systemic challenges within our intelligence community. Our security depends on it.
The issue of intelligence reform comes down to three fundamental questions: if, when and how. IF we need to reform the intelligence community, and if so, WHEN to execute this reform and finally, HOW to go about actually implementing reform.
The answer to the first question, IF, is clear. There are serious problems with both the collection and analysis of the intelligence that went into the pre-war intelligence assessments regarding Iraq. We need to get the full story of denial, deception and status, but it is unlikely that we are going to find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as was predicted by U.S. intelligence.
The next question is "when." There will never be an ideal time to make changes. The 15 agencies that comprise the Intelligence Community are on constant alert - more so today than ever before. There is no lull. But, if Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld can be in the midst of transformation of our U.S. military in time of war, it seems clear that we should be able to make changes to our intelligence community as well. In fact, war demands and is a catalyst for long needed transformation. We do not have all of the answers yet about what went wrong before 9-11 and in the pre-war Iraq work, but I believe we know enough to begin the process of seriously discussing intelligence reform. In fact, our conclusions within the inquiry literally beg for reform. Osama bin Laden is not waiting for additional reports and neither should we.
That leaves us with the most difficult question, how? First, there is good news. Things have gotten dramatically better in the Intelligence Community since 9/11. Two years ago, the joint House-Senate 9/11 Investigation, on which I also served, proposed 19 recommendations. The executive branch has implemented 12 of them including an all-source terrorism information center, wholesale FBI reform, improved counter-terrorism training and more linguists just to name a few. Other recommendations are pending in the executive branch including how to reduce the barriers within law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Congress has implemented four changes: a national watch-list center, a terrorist information fusion center, oversight of the Patriot Act, and a review of classification policy. More are pending. That is a success story that has not been told, and should be. The Vice Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Rockefeller and I have agreed to hold reform hearings just as soon as we can make our inquiry public. We will ask experienced intelligence hands for their best advice.
What might these reforms include?
-First, there's a question of resources. Since 9-11, the Intelligence Community has had - and will have - a significant increase in funding. The question is now less a matter of "do they have enough" as opposed to "are they spending it wisely?" We continue to spend money on increasing collection when we still don't have the ability to fully analyze what we already collect.
Second, while a case is being made for the need for more resources, we must do a better job of oversight on the way the Intelligence Community does its work. Director Tenet of the CIA has said he will need five years to rebuild his clandestine service. There are those who disagree and argue that the CIA must be serious about changing the way it does business. Simply requesting more money and people is not enough. Do we need to create a new Human Intelligence agency to do what the CIA can't or won't do? Obviously, settling issues of this type will take strong and continued oversight and expertise.
- Another option: the creation of a domestic intelligence agency similar to Britain's MI-5 has been discussed by splitting off the FBI's counterintelligence and counter terrorism operations. I'll note that FBI Director Robert Mueller, our last Landon Lecture speaker, opposes this. He's moving mountains to remake the FBI from a law enforcement agency to a counter-terrorism agency. I believe we should wait and see what Director Mueller accomplishes on this front.
- In Congress, we must look carefully at the way we conduct oversight of the Intelligence Community. Should we continue to divide jurisdiction over the Intelligence Community between the Armed Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee? There is also a very big issue of term limits for members on the Intelligence Committee. When the Committee was formed in the 1970's, term limits were imposed to prevent members from being co-opted by the Intelligence Community. This has had the unintended consequence of forcing members off the Committee just as they are becoming knowledgeable enough to serve as effective overseers.
-Perhaps the most discussed change has been the proposal to create a Director of National Intelligence. There are many in the Congress who say there is a conflict of interest inherent in a single individual serving both as Director of the CIA and as director of the entire intelligence community. There is broad agreement that from an organizational standpoint, we need to manage the entire community rather than serve the interests of one particular agency.
-The issue that troubles most members of Congress is that of accountability. Almost three years after 9/11, no one in the Intelligence Community has been disciplined let alone fired. Almost two years since the publication of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that declared Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was re-constituting his nuclear program, no one has been disciplined or fired. Are we asking too much? Is this an unfair standard? The Intelligence Community cannot be all knowing, all seeing, cannot be omniscient. The Congress certainly is not.
Finally, some of the criticism is disingenuous in that before 9/11, analysts routinely were required to avoid risk -- required to be as certain as possible -- to be sure. If there were ten dots to connect to provide an accurate analytical product, the standard operating procedure, other than an emergency, was to connect at least seven or eight. After 9/11, understandably there was a dramatic upheaval within the intelligence world.
The key incident I believe was the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, the first clear indication there could be storm clouds in one theater and lightning in another. Now the admonition is: Do not be risk averse; if you can connect three or four dots, move the product, issue the threat warning.
So, today those who work within the intelligence community are being blamed for being risk averse prior to 9/11 and just the opposite in reaching a consensus with regard to Iraq. And in fact, the Intelligence Community seldom gets credit for what they detect, deter or prevent. Finally, we are doing some things right. There have been no further attacks on our homeland since 9/11. But, the threat always remains.
I think we should expect and demand the Intelligence Community simply be candid with the President and Congress about what it does know and what it does not know. A golden rule should be instilled into all analysts and managers: tell me what you know, tell me what you don't know, tell me what you think and make sure I understand the difference. Rarely is any intelligence case a "slam dunk." We have found serious failures to share information before 9/11 and in the pre-war work on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Where is the accountability?
One explanation may be a common and innate Washington problem - an institutional inability to recognize or admit that there are problems. Simply put the community is in denial over the full extent of the shortcomings of its work on Iraq and 9/11. We need fresh thinking within the Community, within the Congress to enable the Intelligence Community to change and adapt to the dangerous world in which we live and for all of us to look in the mirror and honestly examine our collective performance over the last decade.
In my years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have traveled around the world and met many of the brave and hard working men and women of the Intelligence Community who risk their lives every day to keep us safe. Their dedication is without bounds. We must insure they are not held back by a flawed system that does not allow them to do their best work or does not allow us to get the most value and security out of that work. We need to honor their hard work and sacrifice by giving them and the American people an Intelligence Community worthy of their efforts.
As we initiate and implement specific intelligence reform, and in a larger sense, as we continue the fight against global terror, let us be realistic in our goals. Certainly, it would be preferable to have definitive and precise intelligence, although given the nature of asymmetrical terrorist warfare, we cannot simply wait, we must act with the best of intelligence available. The same is true with regard to the international community. Everyone would prefer to have more help in Iraq; the Germans, the French and the Russians, helping to reconstruct and provide security. That goal makes an appealing campaign speech. But, the question is moot and the argument unrealistic, if not cynical: France, Germany and Russia made it absolutely clear that they would never support the overthrow of Saddam. And, with proper UN inspection, we may be close to finding out why.
As for the UN, the international legal case against Saddam, as spelled out in 17 resolutions was unprecedented. But, the debate in the UN went on and on giving Saddam repeated "one last chances" to comply with Resolution 1441 or face military force. Unfortunately, for world stability, Saddam did not comply.
In the past we have failed to act waiting on definitive if not foolproof intelligence -- which we know is not realistic with this type of enemy. The same is true with regard to total UN and foreign consensus. These failures to act actually encourage terrorism. Whatever lapses may have occurred in the eight months of his presidency before 9/11, President Bush had the courage to act. In doing so, he turned 20 years of anti-terror policy on its head, went on the offense and took the war to the terrorists toppling state sponsors of terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq and is now attempting to achieve stability in the Middle East. Agree or not, I submit to you, this is leadership.
Prior to 9-11, the idea that any president would have toppled the Taliban was wishful thinking. The media was full of hand-wringing about the dangers, the establishment warned the U.S. would get bogged down in a hopeless war of attrition. President Bush took the risk and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan are safer as a result - and with 70 to 80 percent of the Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership killed or captured, so are we. This is what we ought to be debating this election year and beyond. What matters is what strategy against terrorism the U.S. should pursue now and for the next four years.
Presidents take an oath to protect the American people. Today, they must do so based on information that will always be imperfect. Today, a president does not have the luxury of waiting on the French, the Germans, the Russians or the UN - or proof beyond a reasonable doubt. George Bush acted to protect America and prevent another 9/11. The next president will have to do the same thing.
In this regard, I believe a policy of what columnist Charles Krauthammer calls "realistic preemption" remains the logical choice in the war against terrorism. In a world of terrorists, terrorist states and weapons of mass destruction, the option of preemption is especially necessary. Deterrence did work in the bi-polar Cold War period. But deterrence does not work against people who ache for their version of a better afterlife. It does not work against those you cannot deter. And, it does not work against those we cannot detect - enemy regimes that may attack through clandestine means -a suitcase nuke or anonymously delivered anthrax.
In the past, we used the threat of retaliation after we'd been attacked - and in today's world that is too late. The point of preemption is to deter the very acquisition of WMD's in the first place. And, with the exposure of A.Q. Kahn, the international WMD Godfather, and the dismantling of his WMD production network, with the decision of Libya to dismantle its WMD program, with the North Koreans at least taking part in diplomatic disarmament efforts led by China, with Pakistan an ally and partner in the search for Osama, with Iran opening their WMD door just a crack for international inspectors, the resolve we have shown with regard to Iraq is hopefully paying dividends.
However, with all of this talk about preemption, I do have a word of caution and warning. Whether or not the United States views itself as an empire, it is obvious that for many foreigners and international critics, we look, walk and talk like one and they have responded accordingly. An empire that displays weakness and is not taken seriously is in serious trouble. However, being perceived as capricious or imperious is also dangerous. The problem has often occurred when an imperial power insists on imposing a particular vision on the world. It seems to me that in fighting the global war against terrorism, we need to restrain what are growing U.S. messianic instincts - a sort of global social engineering where the United States feels it is both entitled and obligated to promote democracy - by force if necessary.
Again, the United States must be willing to use force, unilaterally if necessary to protect our security and that of our allies. But, it is also time for some hard headed assessment of American interests. I do not believe America wants to be or is an empire. We may be perceived that way and it may serve our critics to say so. But, unlike Rome, Britain, France, Spain, not to mention Germany and Russia, we do not hunger for territory. It is absurd to apply the word empire to a people whose first instinct upon arriving on anyone's soil is to demand an exit strategy. We are, in fact, unique in history, a nation of immigrants that by destiny or pure accident has been designated custodian of the international system and the guarantor of freedom, stability and representative government.
As we work our way though the crisis in Iraq and approach the June 30 deadline for yet to be defined sovereignty and governance, let us remember the tender roots of freedom - the right of all peoples - must be planted carefully in stony soil. Liberty cannot be laid down like so much astro turf. Law and order must come first. Without stability, there can be no representative government, only anarchy.
Now, we face a daunting challenge. The United States and the Bush Administration have taken on a huge challenge which will not be resolved for several years to come and directly impacts the global war against terrorism. When we succeed - and there is no other option - we may transform the world for the better and I believe America for the better as well. If we do not, Islamic extremism will hold hostage Muslim nations throughout the world, threatening individual liberty if not civilization.
Samuel P. Huntington was prescient in his book, "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order." Today it comes down to a choice between confrontation to preserve world order and civilization as we know it or capitulation. The choice is clear. Former Secretary of State George Shultz has stated he likens our situation in history to World War II and 1937. In the 1930's as in the 1990's we failed to do what we needed to do to head off a world conflict. Appeasement or inaction never works.
Ladies and gentlemen, the stakes are huge -- and the terrorists know that as well as we do. It is a matter of resolve. Thank you again. It has been a privilege to be with you today.