C&EN logo The Newsmagazine of the Chemical World
Home Current Issue ChemJobs Join ACS
Support
Latest News
Business
Government & Policy
Science/Technology
Careers and Employment
ACS News
topics
   
Support
 
Support
How to log in
Contact Us
Site Map
   
About C&EN
About the Magazine
How to Subscribe
How to Advertise
Chemcyclopedia

Latest News RSS Feed

latest news RSS feedWhat is this?

   
Join ACS
Join ACS
  Cover Story  
  August 2, 2004
Volume 82, Number 31
pp. 28-33
 


  DAVID A. KAY
America's weapons sleuth talks about his experiences searching for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
 

   
   

 
 

PHOTO BY PETER CUTTS
For all his many accomplishments in a long and distinguished career, David A. Kay will probably be remembered for one memorable phrase uttered before a Senate committee in January: "It turns out we were all wrong."

He was, of course, debunking the nearly universal prewar belief--and the major reason for the preemptive war--that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). And he was speaking with some authority. He had just resigned as head of the Central Intelligence Agency-led Iraq Survey Group (ISG), tasked with finding those weapons.

This Ph.D. political scientist didn't set out to be the man who proclaimed the emperor had no clothes. Rather, he ambled along that road in a fashion emblematic of the sixties, first as an undergraduate at the University of Texas, Austin, where he began as a major in physics but by the age of 19 realized, "I loved science, but I didn't like the isolation of being a scientist." Then at Columbia University, where he received his doctorate and continued to attend physics seminars--not for their scientific concepts so much as for the principles he could later apply to regulations, economics, and business.

From the late sixties until the early seventies, he hopscotched from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to Columbia, teaching political science and eventually becoming a full professor at Wisconsin. As is typical of his career, Kay took a year's hiatus from teaching. In 1967, he became a special assistant to Arthur J. Goldberg, who was then-president Lyndon B. Johnson's ambassador to the United Nations.

When Goldberg resigned in 1968, Kay returned to academia but continued to consult for the State Department. In 1972, he took a leave of absence from Wisconsin to work with the American Society of International Law, which had a National Science Foundation grant.

That grant was for NSF's Research Applied to National Needs (RANN) program, and Kay directed several studies that attempted to understand emerging problems that transcended a single country's boundaries. As part of the RANN effort, Kay also worked on a nuclear safeguards project funded by the State Department.

That last study brought Kay to the attention of State Department officials who, in 1978, asked him to serve as a U.S. representative to Paris-based UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization. It took him all of two minutes to decide he wanted to be an American in Paris, and he accepted, figuring he would be in Europe only two years.

But two years turned into 15. The first five were at UNESCO, where he set up an evaluation unit that monitored technical assistance programs around the world. That effort brought Kay to the notice of Hans Blix, then-director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna.

Blix wanted Kay to set up a similar unit to monitor IAEA's technical assistance program. So in 1983, Kay became the first American hired by Blix after the U.S. resumed its participation in IAEA.

In the mid-1980s, IAEA's safeguards program was in disarray, as evidenced by a poorly written and reasoned document that was leaked to a German newspaper. Blix tapped Kay to rewrite the safeguards document, instructing him to beef up its analytical underpinnings.

And then along came the first Gulf War in Iraq in 1991.

Kay, then on assignment for IAEA, was temporarily residing in a Chinese Communist guesthouse about 200 miles from Beijing when the war broke out. In rapt fascination, he watched the air war on Chinese television, and he says, "We were losing badly on Chinese television!"

That war's messy ending left unanswered the question of what was to be done about Iraq's assumed WMD program. The UN's answer was to set up the UN Special Commission on Iraq, UNSCOM, to uncover and destroy those weapons. The nuclear side was assigned to IAEA, and Blix asked Kay to be one of three senior officials to lead IAEA's efforts.

Kay went to Iraq as IAEA's deputy for management and administration, but was soon leading nuclear inspection teams.

A major breakthrough occurred when one of Kay's teams discovered Iraq's well-concealed electromagnetic isotope separation program. But, for sensationalism, nothing can top Kay's and other inspectors' four-day standoff with Iraqi military on a Baghdad parking lot. That episode earned Kay CIA's nickname "Ramrod."

Kay left IAEA in 1992 to serve for one year as director general of a London-based trade association, the Uranium Institute. From London, he went to Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a major defense and intelligence contractor in northern Virginia, where, until 2002, he served as a senior vice president for nonproliferation and counterterrorism.

From SAIC, Kay went to the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. He was there barely a year when the Bush Administration, in June 2003, asked him to lead the CIA-directed, 1,400-member Iraq Survey Group.

Kay recently sat down with C&EN Senior Correspondent Lois R. Ember to talk about why he believed Iraq had WMD, why he changed his mind, and why he resigned from his CIA assignment so publicly after only six months.

C&EN: You were on the ground in Iraq twice, in 1991 and then again in 2003. Describe the similarities and the differences.

KAY: Well, there are really more differences than similarities. In 1991, when we United Nations inspectors went in after the first Gulf War, Saddam was still in power. There was no U.S. military presence. Essentially, we had no security and were surrounded by Iraqi security officers who hindered our movement.

The first mission I took into Baghdad, the city was still struggling with the aftermath of the war. There was one functioning traffic light in the entire city. We had no U.S. military support, and, in fact, the U.S. government had refused to give us almost anything. The vehicles we initially used were diesel-fueled British Land Rovers, and we had a real problem getting fuel.

The Iraqis were contending they had no WMD program. We had to unmask a program we knew little about and the other side was trying to hide. To do so, we had to build an organizational infrastructure from the ground up.

You have to realize that in the history of the UN, no group had ever conducted inspections of this type. The old IAEA safeguards program inspections were cooperative inspections. There was at that time, in 1991, no organization conducting chemical weapons inspections. Those came later after the chemical weapons treaty was ratified. There were no biological or missile inspection mechanisms.

C&EN: You were with IAEA, focusing on nuclear inspections. UNSCOM inspectors were charged with conducting chemical and biological inspections, correct?

KAY: This is one of the things in diplomacy that is not as clear as it should be. UNSCOM had the overall responsibility for uncovering Iraq's WMD program. But IAEA had the lead for the nuclear inspections. UNSCOM was to support IAEA. But IAEA was to work under the direction of UNSCOM. Only UN diplomats would ever come up with something like that. And you can imagine that this was a source of constant tension and innumerable snafus between the two organizations.

In fact, every time I went to Iraq, I had a letter that designated me as an UNSCOM chief inspector and an IAEA inspector. I was dual-hatted, so to speak. I really worked for two bosses: Rolf Ekeus, who was executive chairman of UNSCOM, and Hans Blix, who was director general of IAEA.

Remember: We inspectors were dealing with Iraqis who owned the city, owned the weapons, and had a security force. We invoked all the powers we could to deal with them, because that's all we had.

C&EN: How did your 2003 experience as head of the CIA-directed ISG compare with your 1991 experience as a UN inspector?

KAY: When I went back this time, in the summer of 2003, the U.S.-led coalition had won the war. Saddam was gone--not yet found--but he was gone from Baghdad. There had been tremendous looting, which was actually worse than the destruction from the bombing. Electric power was down because of the looting that had occurred after the war ended on April 9, so we had to deal with that. And there were a lot of coalition security forces around.

You'll remember that ISG had actually been created before I arrived. But it hadn't been in the field very much when President George W. Bush decided to transfer responsibility for the survey group from the Pentagon, where it had been resident, to the CIA. So having a group in place before I arrived was a huge difference as well.

Also, in 1991, I was out in the field leading inspections and making decisions. In 2003, I had a two-star general I had to keep happy and informed. I had people to consult. I had briefings to do. I managed people. So in 2003, there was less hands-on stuff and more management.

C&EN: What most surprised you in 1991 and in 2003? And what most frustrated or disappointed you?

KAY: The most surprising find of 1991 by far was Iraq's immense nuclear weapons program. For example, in the enrichment area, the Iraqis had made huge progress with an EMIS enrichment system, an electromagnetic isotope separation system.

The Iraqis also had tried to develop a gaseous diffusion centrifuge, and were even playing around with laser enrichment. They tried just about everything.

PHOTO BY PETER CUTTS
Their nuclear program was huge. At its peak, it probably had more than 10,000 people employed in various categories. We estimated that the Iraqis were somewhere between six months to a year and a half from having a crude nuclear device. This was a tremendous surprise to everyone--a great surprise.

The biggest disappointment was the difficulty we had in getting the Iraqis to understand that it was in their own best interest to cooperate with inspectors rather than to attempt to protect the program, shield it from inspectors, and only concede having what we had uncovered while continuing to lie about the rest of it.

I tried to convince the Iraqis that, in the end, no one was going to believe them about anything, even when they told the truth. And I was disappointed that they didn't understand that it was in their own best interest to come clean on the program.

The extent of the looting and the deteriorated security situation made work in 2003--sensible, scientific work--really very hard. It was difficult to get Iraqis to cooperate because they feared for their lives, they feared to be seen working with Americans. Recall that Saddam wasn't captured until late December. And so from June to December, we not only had an active insurgency but a lot of Iraqis who thought Saddam might really return as president. That fear complicated the relationship.

Ultimately, I would have to say my greatest shock in 2003 was concluding that Iraq did not have WMD at the time the war broke out. But almost as surprising was uncovering the serious deterioration of the Iraqi infrastructure and scientific establishment.

You have to realize that in the 1980s, the Iraqis created something that was unique for the Middle East, outside of Israel. They had a productive scientific establishment that had produced missiles and chemical and biological weapons, as well as a nuclear program well on the way to producing nuclear weapons.

By 2003, the scientific establishment had deteriorated--and not just from the war. It had descended into a vortex of criminality and corruption.

C&EN: Why do you think you were chosen to lead ISG?

KAY: The Bush Administration faced a very difficult issue. The agency that had written the assessment of what Saddam had before the war was being asked by the President to go and find the weapons. That's inherently a conflict of interest for the intelligence community.

In order to give the exercise credibility, it was important to have someone from the outside who had some record of independence. Now, it may have turned out I had more independence than they wanted. But I had found stuff the Iraqis had been hiding before. I think the success I had in 1991 in penetrating Iraq's nuclear program was something the Administration looked forward to using. The process of finding and understanding Iraq's WMD program before ISG was set up was not one of great accomplishment.

There was an earlier group called the 75th Exploitation Task Force that was badly led, badly managed, totally unsuccessful, and chaotic. So the Administration needed to walk away from that, and it needed to walk away with someone who had a clue as to how to do it.

C&EN: Why did you accept the position?

KAY: It's one of those offers when it is put to you that the President has decided to do something and wants you to do it, and you feel it's important and what has been done to date has been done poorly, you accept the challenge. Realize: I had been in Iraq in May 2003 reporting for NBC on the chaos of the previous inspection effort, the 75th Exploitation Task Force.

Quite frankly, I thought, and said so on the air, that the major reason the Administration gave for going to war was that Iraq had WMD. If the President didn't make an honest and effective effort to find them, he was going to have a major political problem on his hands. And believing the job had not been well done, for me, it was one of those put up or shut up jobs. And, besides, I've always enjoyed this kind of challenge.

C&EN: When you accepted the position, why did you believe Iraq had weapons?

KAY: Well, I thought the best evidence was if Saddam didn't have WMD, why did he continue to act as if he had them?

At that time, I was not a consultant for the CIA, and I didn't have access to classified information. So I sort of took on faith the National Intelligence Estimate that the intelligence community had prepared for Congress and from which a number of assertions about Iraq's capabilities had been made public. I naively, I now realize, assumed that if the intelligence community wrote that, it must have a reason for doing so.

And so, faced with the Iraqis' behavior--which I could see and observe--along with this reference to classified information that I could not see and observe, I drew the conclusion that Iraq must have WMD. And I was wrong.

C&EN: You left IAEA in 1991, but UN inspections continued until 1998 and resumed briefly in 2002. Do you feel you were current on the information those inspections were uncovering when you were speaking out about Iraq's arsenal?

KAY: I believe I had up-to-date information. One of the nice things Ekeus did was meet with me continuously while he was executive chairman of UNSCOM. I think there was very little that took place that I wasn't briefed on or was privy to, even though I was a private citizen and not associated with IAEA.

Almost all those inspectors who spoke out before the war believed that Iraq had WMD, whether they were currently involved with inspections or had been involved in the past. As is true among scientists, the inspection community--and there were not that many inspectors--had an informal contact network that kept us all informed of what was being unearthed. And I think most inspectors were of the opinion that the evidence indicated that Saddam was still hiding something.

C&EN: "We were all wrong" is the most quoted line from your testimony before Congress in January.

KAY: It will probably be on my tombstone.

C&EN: What did you mean by "all"?

KAY: At that point, I was privy to our own intelligence estimates as well as those of other countries. I now knew what the analysts were writing before the war. And so, as I looked at the analytical community's product--not just in the U.S. but in the world--I saw a great deal of uniformity in the assessment that Saddam, at least, had chemical and biological weapons. That there was this surprising uniformity is, I think, one of the most serious issues we must now understand and explain.

There were, of course, great differences among countries about the proper political response to Saddam having chemical and biological weapons. And there was wide divergence about whether Iraq had a nuclear program.

C&EN: Was this uniformity produced because intelligence was being recycled?

KAY: I think there were several reasons. First of all, at the most basic level, it was the failure of the analytic process.

The various intelligence communities were reaching the same conclusion, in part, because they were recycling the same information. But think about it: In 1991, Saddam really did have WMD. He really did try to hide them from UN inspectors. His behavior throughout the 1990s and, really, up until the time of the 2003 war, was pretty consistent. He tried to limit access, to conceal programs, and to import things that he shouldn't have been importing under UN resolutions. So his external behavior was pretty consistent.

Now, information that was collected--and there wasn't much--but the information that was collected was put upon this preexisting skeleton. Evidence that didn't conform to that skeleton tended to be discarded, I think, all too easily. Partly because it didn't fit. But, more important, I think, the only thing that garnered ally support for the U.S. policy toward Iraq throughout the 1990s and up until the time of the war was the threat of WMD.

U.S. policymakers in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations were interested in regime change. But no one else in the world was interested in regime change. The only thing that held it together was Iraq's WMD program.

It was almost as if there were two bars: Evidence that seemed to support the existence of a WMD program had to pass a very low bar of credibility. Evidence that did not confirm had to jump an extremely high bar because if it became accepted, there would be a real problem in holding the allies together.

C&EN: Were there other reasons?

KAY: Yes, there was a third, though subsidiary, issue. The U.S. tends to collect intelligence using technical means. That's America's forte. We monitor targets from outer space; we intercept their electromagnetic communications; we measure the effluents from their processes.

The problem is that information collected by technical means is pretty limited. For example, satellite photography can detect new buildings, but it can't see inside buildings. And, over the past 50 years, the U.S. has failed to gather enough reliable human intelligence--and has suffered from this deficit.

Policymakers in both Administrations didn't want to know if there was a new building outside of Baghdad. They wanted to know what was happening with the WMD program. And the only people who had any information on that were Iraqi defectors.

The defectors wanted to get rid of Saddam because of the hardship and suffering he had imposed on his people. The U.S. wanted Saddam gone because of his suspected weapons programs. The defectors knew this, so they told us tales of WMD to move the U.S. toward their objective of eliminating Saddam.

We bought the lies. And now we have to understand why we were so gullible.

C&EN: Why do you think Saddam continued to thwart the UN and never admitted to having destroyed the weapons?

KAY: I think there were three reasons. He was still doing things that were illegal under the UN resolutions that he wanted to hide, and he had aspirations of continuing his program at some point. So he really did have something worth hiding.

Second, it turns out, he was most afraid of his own people--the Kurds and the majority Shia. He represented a minority within a majority who had absolute hatred for him, and he knew it. And, he knew the Kurds and Shia feared his use of chemical weapons, so believing that he had those weapons was a constraint on their behavior.

He also feared his own military. There had been military coup attempts against Saddam.

ISG learned from extensive interviews with military officers that most of his military actually thought Iraq had WMD. And for that reason, Saddam felt that if he indicated that he had given up those weapons, it would be a sign of weakness that he had caved in to the UN and the U.S. He couldn't show weakness in front of people who had guns--the military.

Throughout the 1990s, U.S. policy, at least CIA policy, had been to try to form a coup in the military to get rid of Saddam. The U.S. understood that the people who had guns were the real threat to him. Saddam understood that the people who had guns were the real threat to him, and so he tried to look strong. It's just the strong man facade.

C&EN: What about regional threats to him?

KAY: Well, I think regional threats were of less concern to him in the end. He really feared his own people, and his own military, much more than threats from other countries in the region.

C&EN: What are the lessons learned from the U.S. foray into preemptive war?

KAY: Exquisite intelligence is needed before a preemptive attack is launched. There is probably nothing more destructive to democracy--both internally and in world standing--if the reasons for going to war turn out to be wrong. For a democratic country, force always is and should be the last resort.

If the main reason for going to war is--as it was in this instance--eliminating WMD, then intelligence needs to pinpoint where they are. In this case, we were wrong about the reasons, and consequently we were wrong about where they were--because they didn't exist.

So I think this war emphasizes that a country does not go forward with preemption unless it changes tremendously its intelligence capability and structure. To do otherwise leads to a coarsening of democratic debate in the country, creates dissent, and weakens the country's leadership standing internationally.

C&EN: Other than the need for good intelligence, are there other lessons learned?

KAY: The second lesson learned is that if you go into these enterprises, there's a good reason for building a coalition beyond providing the military strength required to carry out the operation. Coalitions provide you with some things you just can't have if you go about it unilaterally: support internationally, but also domestically.

Coalitions bring you other things as well. For example, in dealing with Iraqis, the people who were most effective while I was there were those allies who spoke Arabic, who had experience in the culture, who were Islamic. They brought things to the table that as an American I could not bring.

C&EN: You resigned as head of ISG this January after only six months. Why?

KAY: I came to the conclusion that there were no WMD.

C&EN: How did you reach that conclusion?

KAY: Everyone expects it to be a eureka moment, but it wasn't. There were things that from the very beginning just didn't add up for me. Tallying all that I learned, I reached a final conclusion that--at my 85% confidence level--there were no stockpiles of WMD.

I found within the CIA a tremendous resistance to that conclusion--not because it was wrong, but because it was inconvenient. And yet I felt it was such an important conclusion, not just because of Iraq, but because if we were wrong on Iraq, it represented a systemic intelligence failure. And I felt it was important to address that systemic failure because of the other security crises around. I also thought addressing it was not something that should be delayed because it was inconvenient.

C&EN: Did you resign, in part, because you were not getting the resources you needed and because members of ISG were being diverted to other tasks?

KAY: Dwindling resources was a very important reason. When I accepted the job, I told Central Intelligence Director George Tenet that there were a couple of conditions I felt were important. I was to be in charge. When I asked for resources, I'd get them. And finally, it was important that this operation, ISG, be totally focused on WMD until we reach some conclusion about their existence.

But by last November, I was dealing with this combination: I had resources being drained and diverted, and I had a home office that was reluctant to listen to my conclusion that there were no weapons to be found. The conditions that had led me to take the job had changed, and I saw no reason to continue.

C&EN: You resigned saying you believed Iraq had no caches of WMD and probably hadn't had them since the mid-1990s.

KAY: That's right.

C&EN: That's dramatically different from your remarks to Congress in October when you said ISG hadn't yet found weapons but left the impression that they might still be found.

KAY: I don't think so. I think it's correct to say I left the feeling that it was possible that they were there. I actually think the October report stands up pretty well in terms of its final conclusions.

It's remarkable for a government report in that it says on the first page that ISG had not found weapons, as opposed to putting that statement on the last page, as people had advised. And it lays out conclusions I'm still prepared to stand by: There were illegal imports, there were program activities, and there was the intention to reacquire WMD at some point in the future. All of those things are true.

C&EN: What convinced you to change your mind so dramatically?

KAY: I don't think I changed my mind. I think I moved to the logical conclusion. I mean, I said in October that we had not found WMD. And I laid out the difficulties of finding them--the lack of security and the looting. I laid out what we had found in terms of program activities, and that we were continuing to look for weapons. But two months later, we had played out all of our strings.

C&EN: But you began this exercise in June adamantly believing Iraq had weapons. What changed your mind?

KAY: What changes from theory? It's the same in science: empirical evidence.

When I accepted the job--even prior to that, during the war while I was doing on-air analyses for NBC--UN inspectors were not in Iraq, had not been in Iraq since 1998. We lacked physical evidence. Then, following the war, the coalition suddenly owned the haystack as opposed to looking at the haystack from the outside.

If there had been WMD, there were three things ISG needed to find, even if we didn't find the actual weapons: a physical plant that would have produced the weapons; scientists, engineers, and technicians who would have worked on the production of those weapons; and security and other people who would have been involved in guarding or moving the weapons.

C&EN: By what metric could you say in January that 85% of ISG's work had been done?

KAY: I was referring to 85% of the work on being assured that there were not large stockpiles of WMD. I was not saying 85% of all the work ISG could do in Iraq, which would constitute a generation of effort.

But in most areas of investigation--whether it be science or social science--85% is about as close as you could get to an absolute answer. The last 15% often includes things that can't be done because they are incredibly expensive or prohibited.

I thought with regard to determining whether there were large weapons stockpiles that we were at the point where we had done virtually everything we could do. For those who say they could still be hidden someplace in Iraq, that it's a big country, yes, they're obviously right. There always remains a level of unresolvable ambiguity.

There are always possibilities that you don't or can't examine. ISG didn't go to Syria looking for weapons Saddam might have transferred. So we can't say with 100% certainty that there are no Iraqi weapons in Syria.

My fundamental belief is that weapons weren't moved to Syria because ISG found no evidence that they had been produced. And ISG found contrary evidence that they had not been produced. Would it have been better if we had gone to Syria and been able to look? Absolutely. But that was just not in the cards.

C&EN: Didn't you have enough inspectors to narrow the level of ambiguity?

KAY: People say, well, you had 1,400 inspectors. I didn't have 1,400 inspectors. I had 1,400 total personnel, including a chaplain because ISG is a military organization.

C&EN: How many inspectors did you have?

KAY: In total--if I generously include clandestine officers, translators, and interpreters--I had fewer than 400 inspection personnel. That isn't a lot, and the 10% reduction in inspection resources imposed in November was a huge reduction.

Only a relatively small number of inspectors were actually military officers. Some inspectors were drawn from the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The nuclear inspectors were almost entirely drawn from the national labs. And the biological inspectors came from various intelligence agencies as well as from the ranks of former UN inspectors.

C&EN: How do you answer those people who say you didn't complete the job when you resigned abruptly in January?

KAY: First of all, on whether it was abrupt or not: It wasn't abrupt if you were on the inside. I told Tenet in early November that I would resign if my resources were cut.

I think it is a fair criticism that I hadn't finished the job. Certainly when I was weighing the pros and cons of taking that step, leaving the job unfinished was the big negative, mostly because I felt a responsibility to the people I had recruited to join the survey group. The major positive outcome was that my resignation might spark the national debate I thought was one we needed to have but were not having. For me, the important thing was that, as a country, we were not addressing large, systemic intelligence failures.

It seemed to me that there was an attempt by the Administration to roll it, to avoid drawing appropriate conclusions. The important conclusions were not really with regard to WMD and Iraq. Once the conclusion was reached that the intelligence had been wrong, the next logical step, it seemed to me, was to try to understand why it was wrong. And if you look back, prior to my testimony that wasn't at the forefront.

After my testimony, what did you get? You got the Butler commission in the U.K. and the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, among other studies in the U.S. So actually, I view my decision to leave as having jump-started the process of understanding why we got it wrong.

C&EN: Why, after you resigned, did you say ISG needed to continue its work even though you believed it wouldn't find weapons?

KAY: Oh, there are a lot of other important questions to be answered besides the issue of large weapons stockpiles. The procurement networks, for example. There clearly were illicit procurements, and we need to uncover those networks to learn exactly who had been supplying the illegal material ISG was finding but Iraq had not reported to the UN. I think the survey group is now concentrating on that.

We also need to understand the decision-making process in the 1990s that led the Iraqis to the conclusion that they ought to dismantle their weapons and concentrate on programs that would permit weapons production to resume sometime in the future.

My fear is that the important work remaining won't be done. Now with a sovereign Iraqi government and the deteriorating security situation, it becomes harder for the survey group to carry out its activities.

C&EN: Why have you said that you don't believe the Bush Administration cherry-picked intelligence to support going to war?

KAY: To me, cherry-picking means that you choose those things that support your position and discard other things that are inconvenient and don't support it. If you look at the whole body of intelligence that was sent forward to the White House, it was pretty consistent with regard to Iraq's chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs. Administration officials didn't have to cherry-pick.

C&EN: Supposedly, the intelligence reports contained appropriate caveats and were nuanced in their conclusions, and that all got lost in translation when they went up to the White House.

KAY: Well, there's a game that's played in Washington. The caveats are placed at the ends of reports. Take a 60-page document such as the National Intelligence Estimate. The President gets the executive summary, which generally does not contain caveats.

The executive summary for the NIE on Iraq is among the sloppiest written documents I've ever read. It is a poor representation of the back part of the NIE, which I'm sure the President and vice president probably never got.

I fault the intelligence community for a poor product, one that left policymakers--who were perhaps less cautious than they should have been--to act on a poor product and not realize how poor it was.

C&EN: Even the President has been reported as having questioned the intelligence. And Tenet supposedly said "it's a slam-dunk" to reassure the President that the intelligence was correct.

KAY: Yes, and that leaves open the question: If you're the President and you find something less than compelling and you're thinking about going to war, do you take someone's sports analogy as a sufficient answer? Or do you say, 'I'm uneasy about this. Someone go find it out'?

I think the lesson is you do the latter; you give it serious review. But that's not cherry-picking. I think the evidence is that the intelligence was not subjected to a great deal of scrutiny at higher levels of government. And in retrospect, should policymakers regret that they didn't do that? Absolutely, they should regret it. You don't go to war lightly, and you don't take on faith what the intelligence community tells you.

C&EN: What are your future plans? Are you writing a book about your Iraq experience?

KAY: No, I'm not writing a book about Iraq. If I write a book at all next year, it'll be about intelligence reform and intelligence in national security. I think terrorism and WMD are important issues. But I think there are other national security challenges for the next generation that are really much more important. For example, the threats posed by failed states or, more correctly, vulnerable societies that may resort to terrorism or the use of WMD.

 

 

 
     
  Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2004
 


Advertisements
Visit ActiveSight
Visit Enamine

Related Stories
Iraq Shell May Contain Sarin
[C&EN, May 24, 2004]
Top U.S. Inspector Briefs Congress
[C&EN, Apr. 1, 2004]
Intelligence Failure Or Political Malfeasance
[C&EN, Mar. 15, 2004]
UN Inspectors Found No Iraqi Weapons After 1994
[C&EN, Mar. 8, 2004]

E-mail this article
to a friend
Print this article
E-mail the editor