Friday, September 13, 2002 - 10:30 a.m. EDT
(Background Briefing on Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction)
MODERATOR: Good morning, and thanks for joining us today. Today we're going to have a briefing for you, on background, on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. For your notes, the briefer is [...] and he may be referred to in your stories as "a senior defense official." We have about 30 minutes, and he does have a fair amount of information to present, so let's go ahead and get started right now.
Q: Does the 30 minutes include the questions?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Afraid it does. This was not by choice. I can take them as we go, if you'd like, as long as they aren't longer than my presentations. (Laughter.)
Q: Some of us do that, you know.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I know. That's why I made mention of it.
All right. (To staff.) Where are we? Do I have a slide?
MODERATOR: Yeah. There it is; we just had --
Q: Well, briefly, what's the purpose of the briefing?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, and I'll -- that's what I'll do.
Q: I mean, is it on Iraq - is it just in general?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No.
Q: All right.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It's a -- (laughs; laughter) -- I didn't even get to the first one! (Laughs; laughter.) There you go [reference to slide].
This is -- clearly the interest is focusing and narrowing on the question of Iraq. That's understood. This is meant to be the background to some of what you undoubtedly will hear and people will undoubtedly say about Iraqi capabilities relative to both terrorism and weapons of mass -- undoubtedly.
But this is not about Iraq; it is about the subject you see there, which is the sort of the step one of this. There's sort of a two-step process. You kind of gotta understand we think that the environment in which an Iraqi is operating to have an appreciation for the concern that is being expressed about the capabilities and activities of Iraq.
Okay, so that's the idea -- sort of step back a little bit, talk about the global picture: how many other folks are engaged in this kind of activity, what their -- some of those relationships are, the depth to which some of have gone in the development of capability, the extent of some of the connections between and among them to set the back grounds -- all right -- scene for you. And then I'm sure at some point in the not -- I mean, I don't know when they're going to do it -- we'll end up with a little more discussion on Iraq, itself. I mean, and so I think that's the way this is set up to go.
Why don't you turn the slide.
These first few are scene-setters for a different audience. This has been used, you know, for information groups upstairs. We've briefed versions in a classified format in other fora. But the idea was to sort of set the scene, which -- again, it's not something you don't know. They clearly maintain a global network. There are global networks of terrorist organizations. It's also the case that organizations like bin Laden's -- and you see the quotation there on the bottom -- have said that they have an interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction. And as we go through this, you will see that there are occasions when, indeed, they have not only made efforts to acquire it but, in some cases, made use of them.
Go to the next slide.
This slide is meant to talk about the reach. You see it's color- coded.
(To staff.) Next. Push the button there. Or another button. Hey! That's a good button.
This is a -- you can see the color-coding down here. This is -- the tan is active activity by al Qaeda, Hezbollah activity; this was culled out as another organization with global reach. The next one down is the combination, places where both al Qaeda and Hezbollah tend to be active. And then you see the state sponsors of terrorism on the list.
This is just a graphic representation of the extent to which there are global networks of terrorists, and to remind that of those states which are identified by the Department of State as state sponsors of terrorism, they themselves are involved as well in weapons-of-mass-destruction programs and have an interest in seeing -- in some cases, not all -- in some cases long-range delivery means.
On the next slide, again to underscore the point about the extent of terrorist operations on a global scale, this is a listing of activities primarily by allies, both in Europe and in Asia, arresting and otherwise disrupting terrorist activity -- arresting terrorists and disrupting activity. And what happens when one goes through that exercise is that you learn more with each arrest and the interrogations that go with them. And so over time, what one tends to discover is the depth and the breadth of these organizations. The information has also been used in some cases to thwart attacks and to defend both friendly and allied personnel and facilities as well as U.S. facilities.
We know that these networks have not been destroyed. We know that they are active. We know that they are trying to rebuild. We know that they're planning to do other things. And so the concern remains quite apparent.
I made mention of the fact that we have seen use by organizations who intend to terrorize civilian populations, and here's a list going back at least to the mid-1980s. The Aum Shinrikyo attacks are the ones that I think most people recall most immediately, but there were others that have taken place. The Egyptian Islamic Jihad is an organization which, by its name, lives in Egypt and has been associated with a number of terrorist organizations. One of their operatives was arrested in '98, for example. He's serving a life sentence in Egypt at the moment. But he claimed -- and here's where I want to talk a bit about the claims -- that his group had chemical and biological weapons. So that was in 1998.
Now, part of the difficulty with these kinds of discussions, of course, is that the availability of the evidence is sometimes hard to come by. That is to say that it comes, in many cases, through intelligence operations. Those are -- the idea is that the people who are engaged in terrorism and have these programs in hand want to hide that information from those of us who want to know about it. And so the information is always going to be incomplete. It is going to be pieced together with great difficulty over time.
And what that leads to is an observation that I know you've heard the secretary make before, and I will remind you once again. When we say, or the intelligence community says to you that we now have information about X, it is all together likely, when it's related to things like terrorist cells and planning and WMD activities or missiles programs; it's all together likely that the time when the thing being reported, that is we've discovered that country X is developing a certain kind of weapon, the likelihood is that that activity precedes by some considerable period of time the moment when we have learned about it. So a program can be three or five or seven or 10 years old before we have any understanding of it.
Now, having gotten understanding of it, it tends to be the case that we then learn more about it more rapidly, and our information grows, to some extent, based on the limits of what we can do in terms of intelligence collection. But always keep in the back of your minds, when you hear that something has been discovered, the likelihood is that that thing that has been discovered is itself much older than the date at which we have come upon it.
Delivery means. We tend to want to talk frequently about the more exotic means of ballistic missiles and even cruise missiles. The fact of the matter is that the means of delivery, particularly for chemical and biological weapons or agents can be really quite unsophisticated.
There are those rockets you see up into the left-hand corner, which you can buy on the gray market. And every now and again, you know, we hear news of caches of these things being even here in the United States. The sprayer you see down there in the middle is something that your gardener uses; he comes in and sprays your flower bed plants with it. The little box you see with the fans next to the rocket was used -- was put together by the Aum Shinrikyo people, and they're little fans, and they're just designed to get an aerosol effect inside a closed space. The crop duster, as you know, and was reported during the course of the last year, is a system that bothers us quite a bit because its purpose is to take agent, load it into it, and to be spread in a form which could be quite deadly, if they got the right kind of composition with the chemical and biological agent.
Q: Do they have the right kind of composition?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: In some cases yes, and in other cases it's harder. You know, chemicals especially are affected by weather; how hot is it, is it raining -- those kinds of things. Inhalants need to be of the right size microscopically, and they need to have the right composition to enter the bloodstream. So putting these together is not trivial; I don't wish to suggest that to you. On the other hand, it isn't as difficult as one might think because these kinds of activities can be done and have been done, you know, at the level of high school laboratories. And so this is not sophisticated in that sense. But you do have to get it right, depending on the character of the toxin.
Q: If that's the case, and you say al Qaeda has been trying to do this for 10 years, why have they never been able to do it?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Next slide.
Q: Well, wait, the Iraqi truck; is that a notion or is that an actual -
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Let me get to that. This is stuff that came out of Afghanistan. On the top is a centrifuge; it's designed to separate the medium and the agent that you're trying to get to. Then the drying oven down at the bottom, you asked about -- you know, is it the right size, I mean, you've got to dry this stuff, and you've got to be able to then transport it. They clearly are developing this stuff, and there's every reason to think that elements of that organization have had the opportunity to develop it and experiment with it.
All right. Now, have they used it yet? We don't know.
Q: Can you explain, a centrifuge is for what agent?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, it depends on what it is. But centrifuges are designed to take the liquid in which you have grown the medium -- or the toxin, and separate it from that so that you can take it off -- I mean, takes the heavier stuff and puts it on the bottom. So either the stuff that you want floats at the top or it floats at the bottom, depending on what medium it is in. And then the oven is meant to take that and dry it so that it becomes a powdery kind of substance.
Q: Did you find any traces on the equipment?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That, I can't go into here. Okay.
Q: Biological toxins as opposed to biological agents?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Right.
Q: So ricin or something like that?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: You've got to make the distinction there, and of course that's another step in that process.
Q: We heard that al Qaeda had the intent and the want to have these weapons, but they didn't have them, or we didn't have any evidence of them.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's what I say. I mean, I can't tell you here that I have evidence that they've made use of them. I know that they were working at them; the documentation is there. There's examples of people having had the contacts with other folks. But that's back to the point on the intelligence; I mean, it is very, very hard.
Q: It might help -- maybe it would help if you could tell us how many nations are developing and have weapons of mass destruction -- not nuclear, non-nuclear, chemical or biological -- have the weapons and have the capability to deliver them.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I can do that toward the end. That's in here. And why don't you hold that question. If I don't get you what you want, ask it again.
Q: Clarifying that you said that clearly -- the al Qaeda clearly are developing the opportunity to develop and experiment -- exactly on what? And when you say toxins, spell out why that is so significant.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Because you go from that to the -- to that which you -- you got to have the stuff that makes you sick, and then you got to put it in a format that you can transport it. And if it's an aerosol, you've got to get it in an aerosol. If it's a powder, you've got to get it into the quite -- into the right powdery forms. All right? So you got -- there is a process for production, if you will, that one has to run through.
You asked if -- oh, sorry.
Q: That's all right. Would you be willing to make any of these pictures available to us, as long as you're --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: You know, I don't know the answer. I came down here not knowing the answer to that question.
PENTAGON SPOKESMAN VICTORIA CLARKE: The short answer is no; the long answer is, "We're trying to encourage the release of some, but right now, it's no."
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It's great having a PA officer.
(To staff.) Why don't you give me the next slide on the question of use.
And to question, "Have these things been used?" -- we mentioned the Aum Shinrikyo, which is on the top. This is Iraq on the bottom. I mean, they used them against their own folks and killed quite a few of them using chemical agents. So it is not a case that we haven't seen the use even at the state level of that kind of capability.
You asked about delivery systems, but here's the next slide. This is an interesting exercise that was run some time ago with the effort to see what would be the effect of the introduction of smallpox into the United States? It doesn't take any sophisticated devices to bring smallpox into the United States. You take an infected group of people, and you bring them into the United States. And you have them simply circulate through the population for some period of time, and if they are infectious when they come, they will, indeed, spread the disease.
In this exercise, they introduced it into these three states. The next slide will sort of talk about the effect, and that is, within 22 days -- and this was a study done by Johns Hopkins in 2001 -- within about 22 days, we had smallpox spread to 26 states. And how do you get there? Well, we're a modern, mobile society. People fly. They drive. They take trains. They visit their relatives. And if they've been infected, they infect others. And in this study, at least, they had 6,000 new infections occurring daily. And so during the course of the winter and in through the summer, you heard expressions about smallpox. And this is why. It is virulent, and some of us, I guess, had those little inoculations when we were kids. But I'll bet you kids haven't had them. So it's a --
Q: (Off mike) -- people were brought into the states?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't remember the number there. It wasn't very many.
Q: What was the agent they used to simulate smallpox?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: They didn't -- this is their --
Q: (Off mike) -- computer simulation.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, it's a simulation of what took place. Yeah, sorry. No, let me be clear about that. And there's a lot of work that's been done on this. The propagation of infectious disease has been a subject of concern in the public-health sector for a long time. So whether it's typhoid or smallpox -- I mean, or malaria, people have been worried about it. So they turn their interest and attention to this problem here. And in the worst-case scenario that they ran, at the end of about two months, the projection was -- and I underscore "projection," "simulation", okay -- it didn't happen -- they projected that at the end of two months you've probably have a million dead and about two million more who would have been infected at that point.
So when you start to think about this, the implications of it are really quite overwhelming.
On the next slide -- and this starts to get in part to relationships now -- this is a list of states which themselves are developing weapons of mass destruction and means for delivery, and those states having listed underneath them the terrorist groups that they lend support to in one fashion or another.
So Iran -- you asked about Iran -- they have a medium-range ballistic missile program, they have a long-range ballistic missile program, they have a chemical, a biological and a nuclear weapons program. So, I mean, they're the full ticket here. And those are states -- or terrorist groups which they have lent support to.
Iraq, the same way, the same type list as for Iran. And you see states that they have been inclined to lend support to.
Q: Have they lent support to al Qaeda? You just say "presence" --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Huh?
Q: You just say there's a presence there, but no support?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think presence, yeah. I think it says "presence."
Q: So what you're saying is you have no evidence of any support from Iran and Iraq to al Qaeda?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'm not going to get into that here.
Q: Well, that's what it says there.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It says "presence," right? (Laughter; cross talk.)
Q: It says "presence." (Laughs.)
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It says "presence."
Q: You're implying -- I mean, the implication here to us, and through us to the public, is that there is potential support. I mean, you can't --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: There is a presence inside the country, and those -- these are places which people move freely; they move at times with the knowledge of, and without the knowledge of the governments in these countries.
Q: But the implication we've received from Secretary Rumsfeld and others is that either Iraq is supporting al Qaeda or they're in the country. So what you're saying is you can't say that now or --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No. What it says there is they are present in these countries.
And give me the next slide and I'll give you another one here, and you can just keep chasing me.
There's Libya, Syria, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea. Of the ones on this slide -- you had asked the question about delivery means -- I think it's fair to say that Cuba is not in a class with Iran or Iraq, North Korea, in the development of either the means of delivery or the range of programs. Nor is Sudan. On the other hand, Syria and Libya are both working on the missile programs and the WMD programs as well.
Q: Can I -- wait. Can I ask a question on that other one? Transitory al Qaeda presence in Libya and Sudan. Time frame -- has that been, in your assessment, going on for some time? Is it continuing today?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's a fair question, and I owe you an answer. I can't answer the time frame on that one. That's fair.
Then back to the question of who has what. There's the list. I mean, it speaks for itself, I think. At the risk of sounding like I'm going back over work that I was associated with before, it is true that when the Missile Threat Commission in '98 -- in July of '98 issued its report, it talked about a lot of these countries. And it argued then that most -- many who had well-developed what at the time we called Scud programs and had the basic technology could within a reasonable period of time -- I think we said something like five years -- develop very long-range systems if they chose to do so, and nothing has happened or transpired in the interim that in any way would cause me to rethink anything that was said in that report.
On the next slide, then --
Q: Can we talk about this slide here?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Sure.
Q: You say North Korea has a nuclear assessed capability. Does that mean that you're saying that the unaccounted-for material has, in fact -- is believed to have in fact been weaponized?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The unclassified statement from the intelligence community will tell you that there is a likelihood, or it is judged that, or words to that effect.
Q: There seems to be a slight change here.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, it's not intended to be. I mean, I wouldn't get that far down the street.
Q: The question was always that they have enough material for one to two bombs unaccounted for, but this says something slightly different.
Q: Possesses capability is not the same as a weapon itself.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Exactly. And that's an important distinction. And the capability to do something and the actual availability of it is not there -- so it is not intended -- and I'll find you the phrasing -- it's not intended to change this.
Q: The little red dot in the missile category, does that mean Scuds or does it mean something longer than that?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: For North Korea?
Q: No, for all the rest.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, let's see. The Iranians are clearly short, medium, working hard on long. Iraq is short, working to medium. They had the Scuds from the Persian Gulf War. Libya is likely -- no -- probably is short and working medium. Syria is working its way toward, you know, medium, and then you got the other two. And that was the point I was making a moment ago.
And there is a lot of "to-ing and fro-ing" among them, particularly in the missile -- let me get to the next slide here.
Q: Do you have the slide that the same category -- that isn't the capability but is actually possesses?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, then we wouldn't be here talking about it, I'm afraid. I mean, I'm limited at this point to talking about it in this way.
Q: It makes it difficult - again -- it makes it difficult for people to assess what the --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, let me give you a little more information and see if I scratch the itch, okay? I mean, I got more, and --
(To staff.) So go ahead and give me the next one.
So here are there CW and BW programs. Okay? I mean, it says what it says. There's a multi-agent stockpile out there. They're busily producing the stuff. There're precursor materials have come into the country. So, you know, the evidence suggests that those programs are moving along in a way that is enough to give us pause.
If you go to the next one, which -- you asked about delivery means -- these are the missile programs that I made mention of. They're clearly working very hard at these things. They said that wanted to have them. The picture on the lower right, I think, is a television picture of a launch. And they've been working very hard at that program and making what to all appearances is some substantial success. And the Shahab-3 is to be followed by the Shahab-4 and the Shahab-5. They've deployed several types of unmanned aerial vehicles. And they're working on their cruise-missile capabilities.
And then, on the next one, they're clearly engaged in a nuclear program. It is of some interest that from their petroleum industry -- the extraction -- you know, you tend to burn off gas when you don't want to capture it. They burn off what I'd say are about 4,000 megawatts of energy annually, which is four times what Bushehr will do for them. And so you ask yourself, "Gee," you know, "why are we doing Bushehr?" So they are clearly seeking the technologies and facilities that cover the full spectrum of activity need for the production of fissile material that could be used in a nuclear weapon. The turnkey uranium conversion facility that it's seeking can be used for the feed stocks, for the production of uranium in their enrichment operations or for uranium compound production for use as a fuel in a plutonium-production reactor. All right? And then when you sort of say they burn off more energy than they're going to get out of Bushehr, you ask yourself again, why?
Next slide, then is -- goes to Iraq, the subject of the day. There's a chemical program; there's a biological program. It's a fairly aggressive campaign to rebuild its WMD structure. We continue to see suspicious activities at sites that we believe are related to their CW and BW programs. We believe that Iraq continues clandestinely to store chemical agents and has the ability to produce more. Iraq maintains an active and capable BW program. Not all of the BW agents known to be produced before the Gulf War are accounted for. And UNSCOM assessed that Iraq maintains a knowledge base and industrial infrastructure that could be used quickly to produce large amounts of BW agents. And the situation, we believe, has only gotten worse since '98, when the UNSCOM inspectors left. I mean, that was the point the president made yesterday.
On the next slide -- I think, Tony, you asked about the, you know, here is a cartoon of how you go about the business of moving around a BW plant, which, honestly, you know, fits inside of that kind of floor space and keep it out of the hands of people who want to find it. We know from UNSCOM that Iraq was pursuing mobile fermentation, but the inspections never found them. And UNSCOM sort of gives you an -- their experience tells you just how hard it is to get your arms around the BW identification effort. I mean, here they were on the ground, doing it at long range -- is difficult to do.
Q: But you're saying -- (inaudible) -- complete production -- you mean, they didn't -- (inaudible) -- truck.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: You can do that.
Q: And that's the way Iraq does it.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The suspicion is that among other ways, that's a way that it can be done.
Q: Has the U.S. -- found any way --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's not known. That's the problem.
Q: Excuse me, if this is the suspicion -- is this your sense of how the Iraqis have organized their --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think we've concluded that the reason we can't get arms around them and the reason the inspectors couldn't find them is because they were moving them.
Q: In this way -- you mean like this.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's a cartoon; I wouldn't get too exact on the --
Q: What about -- UNSCOM had -- didn't actually find evidence of mobile fermentation, you said?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The -- we know from UNSCOM that Iraq was pursuing mobile fermentation. Yeah, that's what it says here.
Q: What about the idea of having four trucks? I mean, is that what you're --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: You can put the whole thing in a room small than this. I mean, this is not hard to do. That's why it's -- I mean, you get the petri dish, and you grow the stuff, and you sort of -- you know, you put it in a high school lab, and you can do this. I mean, the labs we all did in high school are more than adequate for the kind of thing that needs to be done here .
Q: I think the question is, if we were to write about this, would we say that the minimum requirement for a mobile biological weapon --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Four [trucks] as opposed to three? I mean, I wouldn't go that far. But the fact that -- I mean, I don't know if it's three, four or five exactly, depending on how long they are, how wide they are, how chunky the material is, how sophisticated it is. The point is, for -- a small number of tractor-trailer type trucks is sufficient to have a capability for producing biological weapons agents.
Let me talk about their missile program for a moment.
We think what we've got here is that -- a situation in which the U.N. Council Resolution 687 limited Iraq to the development and production of missiles with ranges under 150 kilometers. Now, those of you who are familiar with the Missile Technology Control Regime know that there are two parts to that; one is range, and the other one is payload. Well, as it turns out, U.N. Council Resolution 687 didn't limit the payload. Now, at the limit, you know, that means you can take a very powerful rocket, load it down with a lot of weight, and it will only go 150 kilometers. But if you take the weight off, it will fly a lot farther. And the suspicion is that that's exactly what the Iraqis are up to. And so the view here is that they've maintained the infrastructure and the expertise necessary to develop and produce systems with longer ranges than 150 kilometers, and with outside assistance, that they could fly a domestically developed medium-range ballistic missile something out to 1,500 kilometers by the middle of the decade.
Q: You say you have "suspicion". Secretary Powell, on television on Sunday, said that there was evidence that they had tested beyond the 150 kilometers.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I would not contradict the secretary's statement.
Q: How far beyond?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That I can't get into here.
Q: You said they had the capability of being able to do like a medium-range ballistic missile within the middle of the decade --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: About mid-decade or so.
Q: What is it that takes them that long, if they have a capability right now, they have the know-how and the particulars, what's to keep them from doing that?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: You mean tomorrow?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The doing of it. I mean, you do have to bring them together, you have to -- you know, there is some modest amount of fabrication that takes place. There is some need for the fuels and things of that sort. And so it's just -- it's a question of sort of bringing them together as a single system. So if I say mid- decade, I don't think I would walk away with a view that it's not until 2005 that they could do this. I think it's "by" the middle of the decade; so between now and then, at any point along that time, they could probably bring this together in a way that would make it for a medium-range missile.
Q: (Off mike.)
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, this is not a question of competence in the sense of not knowing how to do it.
Q: One more clarification. With what they have today with a lighter payload, how much farther can it go beyond 150?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: More. (Laughs; laughter.) Well, that was the question he asked me here, and I'm just not at liberty to say. I mean, it is more.
Q: Significantly more?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It's enough more that you want to pay attention. Okay? Especially in light of the exchange we just had on the ability to get the medium ranges.
Q: Are you referring to these two particular missiles that --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Those are two that they are very actively engaged in developing and testing both.
Q: Can I just clarify the point here?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Sure.
Q: They've tested components of a system --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: They've tested those missiles.
Q: I understand. My question is as follows. Have they tested components of a system that could be --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, they did.
Q: Let me just ask the question. Have they tested components of a system that could be longer than 150-kilometer range, or have they conducted a flight test that's longer than 150 kilometers?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: They put a bunch of them into Israel in 1991.
Q: (Off mike.)
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, no, but that's -- remember now, we're coming off the technology base, we're coming off of a development program that has followed on to that technology base. We've never satisfied ourselves that we've accounted for everything that they had prior to the Gulf War. We have an active effort to gain materials and knowledge and people and technology. We know what they have done with -- we have evidence of what they have done with these programs. When you pull all of that information together, the assessment that is here is that by the middle of the decade, they could be out to 1,500 kilometers.
Q: My question is straightforward. They've done some testing and development work. The president mentioned in his speech yesterday, mentioned, I think -- seemed to refer to some static engine tests or something. Have they tested components of a system that's longer than 150 kilometers or have they conducted a flight test in the last few years that's longer than 150 kilometers?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Both.
The Iraq nuclear program. Next slide.
This continues on. You remember where we were at the end of the Gulf War, that they were closer than we thought they were going into the war? They retained the science, the documentation, and probably some of the manufacturing. The key issue here is always, as always, is fissile material, do you have weapons-grade material for the purposes of either fabricating or it comes to you fabricated. And that remains probably the only issue, in the case of Iraq.
Q: Is that a picture of a gas centrifuge?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah. It's an enrichment device. And it sort of washes up around in there and out it comes.
Q: And do you still believe --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Destroyed, by the way.
Q: Does the United States still believe that UNSCOM found all the fissile material they had and none has come into the country --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: As I recall -- the New York Times actually ran a piece by the head of -- it wasn't UNSCOM at that point, it was the IAEA, because they had the inspections regime. And as I recall, the way he phrased it was to the effect that he was not satisfied that he could say that he had found all of what was of concern to him. And I'd have to go back and get the exact quotation, but that's where it was left.
Q: Is there a view in the Bush administration about whether there is any fissile material inside Iraq?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think what it tells you here is -- I don't think we know one way or the other.
Q: And what is the latest assessment -- we keep hearing, well, within a few months Iraq could have a nuclear weapon. What's the latest thought on that?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Again --
Q: If they get materials -- if they get materials they can have one --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It's the material. The material is the issue.
Q: And if they had the material tomorrow, they'd have a nuclear weapon?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Then it's a question of how just how quickly they can get them fabricated and assembled.
Q: But is there an estimate --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't know how -- I mean, it's, you know, longer than two hours -- I mean, how long would it take? I mean, how many people? I mean, I don't know the answer to that. I mean, I don't know quite how to answer the question.
If all of -- if they had -- if any country had -- knew what the fissile material component would be: it is of this size, of this weight, of this composition, and so on and so forth -- you can start -- you don't have to have it, that component, to fabricate all the rest of the parts, the firing sets and the explosive and the casing.
So, how far along would they be in the development of the piece parts pending the arrival of the fissile material, I don't know that I can answer that question for you. But starting from what they -- we know the plans, the fact that they have the people, it is reasonable to suppose that it is not a long time. We're not measuring in years, we're measuring probably in the order of less than a year to put these kind of things together.
Q: -- it could be several months. My question is, is it less than several months? Could it be days?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Several months is not bad, I mean that's not a bad way to think about it. Nothing happens overnight -- I mean, nothing happens overnight, right?
Q: So what do we know about their efforts to get the fissile material, where they have gone, the connections they may have made?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: They have been active in trying to get their hands on those kinds of things. Plus, they had their own program.
Q: But what I mean is -- I mean, we've mentioned the aluminum rods. And Vice President Cheney has talked about an aggressive program. I mean, is that evidence, or is it suspicion based on past experience?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I would never contradict the vice president. And I think what he probably said was "evidence." Did he say "evidence"? That's what he said.
Q: But the only things sighted so far have been these aluminum rods.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, you know, there are -- you know, there are some things which you can use for a lot of stuff, there are some things which you can only use for one thing, and then there are some things which only get used for very few applications. All right? And you sort of go through that list, and you start looking at what's going on. And when you rack and stack it all, you come to the conclusion that this is not the kind of thing which, with the fissile material in hand, that it couldn't be done.
Now the question is, are they going to get it from the outside, or are they going to produce it themselves, okay? And again, then your timelines tend to be slightly different. The actual production of fissile material takes some time, all right? Which is why you get the idea of its being in the mid-decade if we're going to do it by means of internal production. On the other hand, if you're going to bring it in wholesale, it takes a lot less time.
Q: (Inaudible) -- as it's required -- anything else on that list, other than the --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think it's enough to say that they're after those items. And chasing those items is, in our view, connected with this kind of activity.
Q: Another -- but the fact that they're chasing these items --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I got to -- guys, I'm not going to do more on Iraq.
Q: -- means the item -- the enrichment -- to rebuild their enrichment capability -- doesn't that indicate that after more than 10 years, they've been unable to buy fissile material on the black market?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't know that -- no, I don't know that answer. And I go back to my cautionary note here at the beginning, okay? What you hear about is stuff that is being discovered, uncovered, stumbled across, found, told to us -- I mean, however it comes to the intelligence community. It can represent activity that predates that information by a considerable period of time.
Q: In the briefing paper put out by the White House yesterday, it talked about the effort to obtain these high-stake aluminum tubes within the last 14 months. Now if that's the case, doesn't that indicate that they A) have been unable to obtain fissile material in any significant amounts on the black market? And B) if it is the beginning of a production effort, it is the very initial beginnings of a very long-range production effort, because you got to make thousands of these things to make centrifuges. You got to build the centrifuge cascades --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I understand. But again, I've seen enough cases where that supposition about other things -- that type of supposition turns out to prove to be exactly wrong. They may be at the beginning and they may not have been successful. It's also possible that they have acquired some, but not as much as they would like. It may be that they are somewhere in the middle of a program. It may be that they've decided to try a different approach to the provision of the fissile material, because you don't do it only through -- I mean, there are other ways to go about doing it. So there's more than one explanation to fit the facts.
And that's why -- I mean, I keep wanting to come back to this: The pieces are fragmentary. You put them together in ways as best you can. You see, I'm not here trying to make a legal case. I mean, what I'm trying to say to you is that there is a preponderance of evidence across all of these countries and their activities, which lead you to the conclusion that this is a very, very dangerous set of activities and they pose a threat.
Q: Can you say where they've gone to look for this material, and how close --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: If I don't leave soon --
Q: Well just, can you offer any more clarity about where they've gone to look for this particular material?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I can't. I can't.
Q: Have they come close at all? Can you give us any sort of --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That -- I can't do that for you.
Q: You can't because you don't know, or you know and you can't say?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: More to the latter than the former.
Q: The press department put out a report in January 2001 that if Iraq -- on global proliferation trends -- that if Iraq were to try to enrich its own uranium, to go that route, it would take five years or longer for them to do this. Do you still stand by that Defense Department report of a year ago?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It could.
Q: It could? They said --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'd have to read the whole thing. I don't -- I don't remember what it --
Q: (Off mike.)
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, no. I know. And if you want --
Q: Well, do you disagree with that?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Let me go back and read what it said and I'll tell you if I agree or disagree.
Q: I'm sorry. All of this -- the presentation --
Q: -- Well, why don't you just say what you think?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I did, which is that they are actively pursuing these kinds of capabilities. The preponderance of evidence is such that there is grave concern about the state of their activity and their intent.
Q: This assessment is really -- it stands in sharp contrast to the CIA assessment presented in January to the Congress, which described the nuclear program as a probable, low-level R&D effort. Can you talk about why the difference in these assessments? Has there been a reassessment? The CIA assessment covered the period of, I believe, June through January -- January through June 2001. And as I say, it described -- it said: We assess that they have a probable, low-level R&D effort. Now this is very different from that.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Let me -- I will read to you what it says: "Testimony of Director George J. Tenet. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 6 February '02."
Q: I know -- he testified in February; this was in a January report.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'll read you what it said in February; I don't have January. (Laughter.) I mean, if I had January, I'd read January for you. "We believe Saddam never abandoned his nuclear weapons program." Iraq retains a significant number of nuclear scientists, program documentation and probably some dual-use manufacturing infrastructure that could support a reinvigorated nuclear weapons program. Baghdad's access to foreign expertise could support a rejuvenated program, but our major near-term concern is the possibility that Saddam might gain access to fissile material." I mean, that's what it says.
Q: All right. I'm referring to the congressionally mandated report.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: They're going to do more on Iraq. Let me finish this, then I got to get out of here.
(To staff.) Give me the next one.
Q: But so far, you've not advanced our state of knowledge on anything that's been said before by the administration, right? There's nothing new here.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Let me finish and come back to answer that. All right?
Libya -- CW, BW programs. They continue to revitalize their program, and they are pursuing the components and technical assistance for ballistic missiles of longer range, as well.
(To staff.) If you'll give me the next one --
Scud-B -- they're after the thousand-kilometer missile from -- much like the No Dong, from the North Koreans. Again, it's here in those range rings you've seen time and again, and I don't need to belabor those. There is an effort to purse a nuclear research and development program there, as well. And you see the bottom line here. It will require the assistance, and they are recruiting.
(To staff.) Let's go to the next one.
Which is Syria. And again, you see the headings there on the chemical programs and the bio programs. They appear to be -- have stockpiled the -- has an active program and has stockpiled the nerve agent Sarin. And Syria appears to be developing more toxic and persistent chemical agents, including the VX nerve agent. And although less sophisticated in its chemical weapons program, Syria is intent on pursuing an offensive biological weapons capability.
Next slide on Syria's missile and nuclear programs: It has a shorter-range-missile force and is producing Scud missiles with ranges in excess of the 300-kilometer range. They may seek longer-range ballistic missiles -- perhaps as long a range as the No Dong, of North Korean vintage. And on the nuclear side, Syria has signed a research and development agreement with Russia on civilian nuclear power. And so, you know, that's again not unlike the claims for Bushehr.
North Korea. I'm not going to tell you anything on North Korea that you don't know. There's an awful lot going on in their chemical program, and that they have a large production capability for chemical weapons. Most of what the North Koreans do in this field is done indigenously. And we think they also have a biological weapons program, and they have the capability to produce a number of biological agents.
The next slide is their missile program. We've been over this many times. As you know, the TD-2 missile, which is the follow-on to the No Dong and the TD-1, the Taepo Dong I, which overflew Korea, is itself capable of reaching most of the United States.
On the next slide -- and then let me --
Q: I didn't see any advance on our knowledge about Iraq's development. Did I miss something there?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL I didn't come down here today for the purposes of advancing information on Iraq specifically. As I said when I started, there will be more information that people will be willing to share as time goes on. I came down here to talk about the nature of these connections and the extent to which activity is ongoing in the international environment, and the concern, then, that that spawns as one thinks about terrorism, the role for states that sponsor terrorism who also have weapons of mass destruction programs, and the kinds of relationships that might arise between and among them. That's the nature of the background here. Now, as you start to drill down on each of these, and people will over time, you know, those connections begin to be tightened up.
This is an example down on the bottom of the canisters that were put together for transshipment on the Karine A, which is the ship on the top which had taken material from Iran and taken it over toward -- to supply forces in -- Hamas over in the Syrian-Israeli-Lebanon area. The containers were designed to be dumped from the back of the ship, sunk to the bottom and then later retrieved by divers who would activate a mechanism to float them to the surface. It's a relatively sophisticated device. People then come out and pick them up out of the ocean and take them to their destination. This is a lot of effort and a lot of work, and it is indicative of how far parties are willing to go in making those connections and transferring capabilities.
So on the next slide, then, when you sort of start to worry about how all of these connections get made and what are possible outcomes, you know, you recall a few things. The Iraqi BW and CW programs. You see there the Iraqi nuclear program, which was indeed a surprise. The North Korea missile program; when the TD-1 overflew Japan. You've got the WMD programs here with al Qaeda and their activities. So those are the things that you sort of piece together or discover after the fact.
Then there's, on the next slide, the kinds of things that we know we don't know and against which we constantly spend time and effort to either prevent or to mitigate or defend against.
And so we worry about those things on a daily basis. And so you have a bunch of things you know you just don't know. But on the next slide, you also know that there's an awful lot of stuff you haven't even thought about, much less know about, and you try to work your way through those on a daily basis.
Q: I just want to make sure I understood that bullet point, two slides back, on Iraq. Are you saying that your current assessment is if they got fissile material, they could --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's why we're talking about it here, I mean, how long does it take, and I've said within the year.
Q: So, if they got fissile material, they could have a workable device --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Within. The word is "within" one year.
Q: Within one year. Which then means -- my other question was, you now believe they've solved all their design issues, that they have a workable design as well?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's what the point of the graphic was earlier on. I mean, this is primarily a fissile material problem.
Q: But -- so within a year?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's what it says.
Q: But wasn't that from the Gulf War? I mean, that was the surprise during the Gulf War, wasn't it?
Q: My question is --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, and as the slides --
Q: So does that apply now or doesn't it?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: They've lost nothing in the way of expertise, and the documentation, and so forth.
Q: You are convinced that Iraq has the capability to produce a nuclear weapon within a year if they -- from the date they get fissile material?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: If they decide that that's what they're going to do with it when they get it.
Q: But you said earlier, it could be several months.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's why I said "within."
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, I -- you know, I mean I -- you know, you're looking to get more specificity than it will allow.
Q: But the question goes to their current capability. You know, if that's what they decide to do, I mean, that could mean that they would then begin to develop the capability. Do they have -- do you believe they have the capability right now to produce a nuclear weapon within a year if they gain fissile material?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's all I've got.
I'll take only one, if it's a good one and it's not about Iraq, I mean I --
Q: You've gone over it before, but just on al Qaeda's capabilities, can you tell us anything about testing, that its confirmed specific agents at the lab site in Afghanistan or any of the other facilities operated by al Qaeda that we know about? We've got some equipment, but have you found agent, has it tested positive?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'm not -- I don't know that I know that there are.
Q: May I ask a summary question? So bottom line, what should the American public most fear out of this particular report?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That terrorist organizations are operating on a global scale. They are in a number of very important cases being supported by states who are giving them aid, comfort and other kinds of assistance. Those in -- there is a close correlation between those states which are sponsoring terrorism and those which have weapons of mass destruction programs -- chemical, biological and nuclear programs. There is, therefore, a set of relationships which have grown up over time between organizations which have demonstrated their ability and willingness to cause destruction on a very large scale, an association of those people with their sponsors, which sponsors themselves have weapons of mass destruction; those sponsors have assisted them in a variety of other ways.
And so the question now remaining is to what extent does one believe, or to what extent should one be concerned that there is now the transferring of the people, materials, or capabilities, or weapons of mass destruction to those terrorist organizations which are being supported.
Q: And do you have any evidence at all of that?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's what we just spent our time going through.
MS. CLARKE: Got to go. Got to go.
(NOTE: The background briefer leaves.)
MS. CLARKE: (Off mike) -- I think I heard from a couple of people -- I came in here late -- and obviously, some of you did not get the "Managing Expectations" phone call. Why we did this today, it was at the specific request of many people in this room because in June, back in June, the secretary and J.D. Crouch did a version of this to the NATO ministerial, and it was very well received. And there were requests to come back to capitals. Starting in July, we started presenting a variation of this brief to members of Congress, former secretaries of Defense, some other groups. There's a top secret version, there's a secret version. We repeatedly got requests from people saying, "Hey, can we get an unclassified version of this briefing?" This briefing was not intended to introduce new information, this briefing was not intended to do anything but respond to specific requests from many people in this room for some version of that briefing. I'm sure many of you have far more information than may have been presented in the brief, but this was done at the specific request of several people in this room.
Q: Next time we do the top secret one.
MS. CLARKE: Absolutely. (Laughter.)
Q: Why can't you release copies of those?
MS. CLARKE: We are working through this, Bob. The short answer probably is no. The long answer is, we're talking to policy people about what we might be able to do.
THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE INC., WASHINGTON, D.C. FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE IS A PRIVATE COMPANY. FOR OTHER DEFENSE RELATED TRANSCRIPTS NOT AVAILABLE THROUGH THIS SITE, CONTACT FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE AT (202) 347-1400.