Rumsfeld Defends Intelligence Community Before Senate
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2004 No administration official put pressure on any analyst to manipulate intelligence data to hype the threat of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee he defended intelligence analysts, saying the men and women in the intelligence community have a tough and often thankless job. "If they fail, the world knows it," Rumsfeld told the senators. "And when they succeed as they often do, to our country's great benefit their accomplishments often have to remain secret."
Today, intelligence professionals have little margin for error. He said the threat of the 21st century is terrorist networks or terrorist states pursuing weapons of mass destruction. The consequences of underestimating a threat could mean the deaths of tens of thousands of people, Rumsfeld said.
The intelligence community in the United States includes the CIA, portions of the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and other military and civilian organizations. Intelligence personnel have a tough assignment, Rumsfeld said.
"Intelligence agencies are operating in an era of surprise, when new threats can emerge suddenly with little or no warning," he said. "That happened on Sept. 11. And it's their job to connect the dots before the fact, not after, so action can be taken to protect the American people."
He confronted the failure to date to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He said analysts took into account the history of Saddam Hussein's regime: The Baathists used chemical weapons on Iran and on their own people. They had modified Scud missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Analysts also had information on what inspectors discovered following the 1991 Persian Gulf War: Saddam's WMD program was far more widespread especially in the nuclear sector than prewar intelligence showed.
Added to that was Saddam's behavior. "He did not behave like a person who was disarming and wanted to do so," Rumsfeld said. "He did not open up his country to the world, as did Kazakhstan, the Ukraine (and) South Africa had previously done -- and as Libya is doing today. Libya!"
The secretary said it was the consensus of the intelligence community and of the Clinton and Bush administrations and of the Congress "that Saddam Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction." He said the international community also believed it.
So what happened? Now that coalition troops have been in Iraq since March, why has no one found weapons of mass destruction? Rumsfeld postulated a number of scenarios that have been proposed.
"First is the theory that (weapons of mass destruction) may not have existed at the start of the war," he told the senators. "That's possible, but not likely."
The second theory is that weapons did exist, but were transferred in whole or part to other countries, Rumsfeld said. Another theory is that it's possible the weapons existed but were dispersed and hidden throughout Iraq or destroyed before the conflict began. It is also possible, he added, that Iraq had small quantities of biological or chemical agents and a surge capability. If that's the case, the Iraq Survey Group the 1,300-member team examining WMD issues may find them in the months ahead, he said.
"Finally, there is the possibility that it was a charade by the Iraqis," he said. It's possible that Saddam fooled his neighbors, the world and the members of his own regime, he added. The secretary said another possibility is that "Saddam Hussein himself might have been fooled by his own people, who may have tricked him into believing he had capabilities he didn't really have."
Rumsfeld said it took 10 months to find Saddam. The hole he was hiding in could have contained enough of a biological or chemical agent to kill thousands of people.
"And once something is buried, it stays buried," Rumsfeld said. "In a country the size of California, the (chance) of finding something buried in the ground without being led to it by someone knowledgeable is minimal."
Rumsfeld praised the support the military has received from the intelligence community. "I can say that the intelligence community's support in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the global war on terror overall, have contributed to the speed, the precision, the success of those operations, and saved countless lives," he said.
"We're blessed that so many fine individuals have stepped forward to serve in the intelligence community and are willing to work under great pressure and risk their lives."