Report Assails C.I.A. for Failure on Iraq Weapons
By DAVID E. SANGER and SCOTT SHANE
"New York Times" - - WASHINGTON - -The final report of a presidential commission studying American
intelligence failures regarding illicit weapons includes a searing critique of how the C.I.A. and other agencies never properly
assessed Saddam Hussein's political maneuverings or the possibility that he no longer had weapon stockpiles, according to
officials who have seen the report's executive summary.
The report also proposes broad changes in the sharing
of information among intelligence agencies that go well beyond the legislation passed by Congress late last year creating
a director of national intelligence to coordinate action among all 15 intelligence agencies.
are likely to figure prominently in the confirmation hearings in April of John D. Negroponte, whom President Bush has nominated
to be national intelligence director and who is about to move to the center of the campaign against terror. [Page A14.]
report particularly singles out the Central Intelligence Agency under its former director, George J. Tenet, but also includes
what one senior official called "a hearty condemnation" of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency,
two of the largest intelligence agencies.
The unclassified version of the report, which is more than 400 pages
long, devotes relatively little space to the holes in American intelligence about North Korea and Iran, the two nations now
posing the largest potential nuclear challenge to the United States and its allies. Most of that discussion appears only in
a much longer classified version.
In the words of one administration official who has reviewed the classified version,
referring to the North Korean leader and the Iran clerical leaders, "we don't give Kim Jong Il or the mullahs a window into
what we know and what we don't."
Mr. Bush is expected to receive the report officially on Thursday morning, White House
As early copies of the report circulated inside the government on Monday, officials said much of it
went over ground already covered by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the two reports of the Iraq Survey Group, which
was created by the government to search for prohibited weapons after the Iraq invasion, and came up basically empty-handed.
Iraq's defeat in the Persian Gulf war in 1991, international inspectors dismantled an active nuclear program, along with biological
and chemical weapons. Much of the flawed intelligence was based on a series of assumptions that Mr. Hussein reconstituted
those programs after inspectors left the country under duress in 1998.
But in retrospect, those assumptions by
American and other intelligence analysts turned out to be deeply flawed, even though some of Mr. Hussein's own commanders
said after they were captured in 2003 that they also believed the government held some unconventional weapons. It was a myth
Mr. Hussein apparently fostered to retain an air of power.
That forced Mr. Bush to appoint, somewhat reluctantly, the
Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, which has operated
largely in secret under the direction of Laurence H. Silberman, a senior judge on the United States Court of Appeals, and
former Governor Charles S. Robb of Virginia.
According to officials who have scanned the document, the unclassified
version of the report makes a "case study" of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, the major assessment that the intelligence
agencies produced at the White House's behest - in a hurried few weeks - in 2002.
After the Iraq invasion in
March 2003, the White House was forced to declassify part of the intelligence estimate, including the footnotes in which some
agencies dissented from the view that Mr. Hussein had imported aluminum tubes in order to make centrifuges for the production
of uranium, or possessed mobile biological weapons laboratories.
The report particularly ridicules the conclusion that
Mr. Hussein's fleet of "unmanned aerial vehicles," which had very limited flying range, posed a major threat. All of those
assertions were repeated by Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior officials in the prelude to the war. To
this day, Mr. Cheney has never backed away from his claim, repeated last year, that the "mobile laboratories" were probably
part of a secret biological weapons program, and his office has repeatedly declined to respond to inquiries about whether
the evidence has changed his view.
One issue the commission grappled with is whether the intelligence agencies failed
to understand what was happening inside Iraq after the inspectors left in 1998, a period that David Kay, the first head of
the Iraq Survey Group, referred to last year as a time when the country headed into a "vortex of corruption." Mr. Kay, who
also testified before the commission, said Mr. Hussein's scientists had faked some of their research and development programs,
and Mr. Hussein was reported by his aides to be increasingly divorced from reality.
One defense official who had been
briefed on an early draft of the report said Monday that one of its conclusions was that "human intelligence left a lot to
be desired" in the global war against terror.
The official also indicated that there was already considerable
anxiety about the final report and its recommendations. "We're all wondering what it will say," said the official, who spoke
on the condition of anonymity because the report had not been publicly released yet. "We all know there were shortcomings
before 9/11," the official said. "Will this report take into account what we've done since then?"
mandate was to examine the intelligence agencies' ability to "collect, process, analyze and disseminate information concerning
the capabilities, intentions and activities of foreign powers." Besides Iraq, Iran and North Korea, that mandate covered terrorist
groups and private nuclear black market networks created by Dr. A. Q. Khan, the Pakistani scientist.
version of the report is particularly critical of American failures to penetrate Iran's program, and notes how much of the
assessment of the size of North Korea's suspected nuclear arsenal is based on what one official called "educated extrapolation."
Officials and outside experts who were interviewed by the commission or its staff said they had been asked at length about
the absence of reliable human intelligence sources inside both countries.
The commission's conclusions, if made public,
may only fuel the arguments now heard in Beijing, Seoul and the capitals of Europe that an intelligence system that so misjudged
Iraq cannot be fully trusted when it comes to the assessments of how much progress has been made by North Korea and Iran.
North Korea has boasted of producing weapons - but has never tested them - and Iran has now admitted to covering up major
elements of its nuclear program, even though it denies that it is building weapons.
The nine-member commission has
met formally a dozen times at its offices in Arlington, Va., and in November visited Mr. Bush at the White House to speak
with him and his staff. It had formal meetings with most top administration intelligence and foreign policy officials and
interviewed former C.I.A. directors and academic experts on weapons proliferation. The commission, which has a professional
staff of more than 60 people, mostly longtime mid-level intelligence professionals, has had access to even the most secret
All the sessions have been closed to the news media and the public, and the commission
members and staff have been tight-lipped about the contents of their report.
"We and the staff have made a commitment
in blood not to discuss the report in advance," said Walter B. Slocombe, a former defense official and member of the commission.
David Johnston and Anne E. Kornblut contributed reporting for
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company