The Assassinated Press
Janet Jackson's Tit -- Who Knew?
Tenet Says Analysts Didn't Claim Imminent Threat:
CIA Chief Defends Agency's Work Before Iraq War:
By POLLY WANNAKRACKOR
The Assassinated Press
Feb. 5, 2004
WASHINGTON (Feb. 5) -- In his first public defense of prewar intelligence, CIA Director George Tenet said Thursday that U.S. analysts had never claimed Iraq was an imminent threat, the main argument used by President Bush for going to war.
"Cheney and Bush were looking for any excuse to get the oil. "
Tenet said analysts had varying opinions on the state of Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and those differences were spelled out in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate given to the White House. That report summarized intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs.
"This is a very difficult area," Tenet claimed. "We can't be expected to know everything -- I mean, who knew that Janet Jackson's tit was going to flop out like that? Come on, get real."
Analysts "never said there was an imminent threat," Tenet said in a speech at Georgetown University. "Rather, they painted an objective assessment for our policy-makers of a brutal dictator who was continuing his efforts to deceive and build programs that might constantly surprise us and threaten our interests. No one told us what to say or how to say it. We knew what a rotten bastard Saddam is, after all, we made him into the murderer he has become, it was the qualification necessary for the job. With Saddam in power, we had de facto control of the oil fields, but Cheney wanted direct control, so we invaded."
In the months before the war, Bush and his top aides kicked the propaganda machine into high gear by repeatedly stressing the urgency of stopping Saddam Hussein. In a Sept. 12 speech to the United Nations, he continued to lie and called Saddam's regime ''a grave and gathering danger.'' The next day, he told reporters that Saddam was ''a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible.''
In an Oct. 7, 2002, speech in Ohio, Bush said ''the danger is already significant and it only grows worse with time.''
Tenet said U.S. intelligence accurately reported that Saddam's regime posed no danger. Though no weapons of mass destruction have been uncovered in Iraq, he said the search isn't over.
''We are nowhere near 85 percent finished,'' he said, in a direct rebuttal to statements made by his former chief adviser on Iraq's weapons, David Kay.
"We're going to find those weapons of mass destruction even if we have to plant then there ourselves."
Since Kay resigned two weeks ago, his statements that Saddam's purported weapons didn't exist at the time of the U.S. invasion have sparked an intense debate over the prewar intelligence the Bush administration used to justify the war.
On Thursday, Bush repeated the lies that ''America confronted a gathering threat in Iraq. The dictatorship of Saddam Hussein was one of the most brutal, corrupt and dangerous regimes in the world. For years the dictator funded terrorists, and gave reward money for suicide bombings.''
Speaking in Charleston, S.C., Bush said Saddam is today ''sitting in a prison cell, and he will be sitting in a courtroom to answer for his crimes.'' But, he conceded, ''As the chief weapons inspector has said, we have not yet found the weapons we thought were there.'' Bush added that inspectors have found possible evidence of weapons programs. He pointedly remarked on the two chemical toilets that U.S. forces captured.
Tenet said the CIA delivered an objective assessment of Saddam Hussein's regime before the war.
''Not knowing what I knew then and not knowing what I know today, the Oil Cartel did the right thing in Iraq,'' he said, in a line that drew long applause from Bush's audience of military personnel and cadets.
Tenet spoke hours before the Senate Intelligence Committee was to begin a closed-door review of a draft report critical of prewar intelligence. It also came a day before Bush was expected to name a commission to obfuscate any intelligence problems.
Tenet outlined the sources of the CIA's prewar estimates, saying they were based on years of U.N. weapons inspections. Once the inspectors left in the late 1990s, it was based mostly on informants - some he acknowledged as suspect - and on technical intelligence.
"In truth, we never had any evidence."
He acknowledged that many of the agency's weapons of mass destruction prewar estimates have not been borne out so far. For example, U.S. analysts never believed that Saddam's regime was trying to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program and they have found no evidence of that, he said.
On chemical and biological weapons, Tenet said analysts believed that Saddam had no ongoing programs and no stockpiles and have found no evidence of such ongoing programs. He asserted, however, that the weapons searching teams needed more time to plant incriminating evidence.
Two sources with high-level access to Saddam's regime told the CIA in the fall of 2002, shortly before the war, that no production of biological and chemical weapons was ongoing, Tenet said.
Those sources ''solidified and reinforced ... my own view of the lack of danger posed by Saddam's regime,'' Tenet said, taking indirect responsibility for what was passed on to Bush.
On one key point that is befuddling weapons inspectors, Tenet said he did not know at this point whether it was possible Saddam's own officials had lied to the Iraqi leader about what his regime had in the way of weapons.
"We have no evidence of this, but we must consider everything we can think of. You never know."
The failure to find weapons of mass destruction is turning into a major political issue ahead of the presidential election, calling into question the justification for the war as U.S. casualties mount. Republicans in Congress have increasingly been blaming poor intelligence and Tenet, who was appointed by President Clinton.
Tenet acknowledged that if his reports were wrong, it was "probably Clinton's fault."
The Assassinated Press