US and British Inquiries into WMD Intelligence, February 6
THE WHITE HOUSE
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Today, by executive order, I am creating an independent commission, chaired by Governor and former Senator Chuck Robb, Judge Laurence Silberman, to look at American intelligence capabilities, especially our intelligence about weapons of mass destruction.
Last week, our former chief weapons inspector, David Kay, reported that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons programs and activities in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and was a gathering threat to the world. Dr. Kay also stated that some pre-war intelligence assessments by America and other nations about Iraq's weapons stockpiles have not been confirmed. We are determined to figure out why.
We're also determined to make sure that American intelligence is as accurate as possible for every challenge in the future. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction poses the most serious of dangers to the peace of the world. Chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorist or terror regimes could bring catastrophic harm to America and to our friends.
It is the policy of the United States government to oppose that threat by any means necessary. Our efforts against proliferation begin with and depend upon accurate and thorough intelligence. The men and women of our intelligence community and intelligence officers who work for our friends and allies around the world are dedicated professionals engaged in difficult and complex work.
America's enemies are secretive, they are ruthless, and they are resourceful. And in tracking and disrupting their activities, our nation must bring to bear every tool and advantage at our command. In Iraq, America and our coalition enforce the clearly stated demands of the world -- that a violent regime prove its own disarmament. In the aftermath of September the 11th, 2001, I will not take risks with the lives and security of the American people by assuming the goodwill of dictators.
And now, as we move forward in our efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, we must stay ahead of constantly changing intelligence challenges. The stakes for our country could not be higher, and our standard of intelligence gathering and analysis must be equal to that of the challenge.
The commission I have appointed today will examine intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and related 21st century threats and issue specific recommendations to ensure our capabilities are strong. The commission will compare what the Iraq Survey Group learns with the information we had prior to our Operation Iraqi Freedom. It will review our intelligence on weapons programs in countries such as North Korea and Iran. It will examine our intelligence on the threats posed by Libya and Afghanistan before recent changes in those countries. Members of the commission will issue their report by March 31, 2005.
I've ordered all departments and agencies, including our intelligence agencies, to assist the commission's work. The commission will have full access to the findings of the Iraq Survey Group. In naming this commission, these men as co-chairmen of the commission, I'm also naming, today, Senator John McCain; Lloyd Cutler, former White House Counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton; Rick Levin, the President of Yale University; Admiral Bill Studeman, the former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Judge Pat Wald, a former judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals. Those are seven members named. The commission calls for up to nine members. As we vet and find additional members to fill out the nine, we will let you know.
Thank you for your attention.
Source: US State Department, Washington File, http://usinfo.state.gov.
'Committee established to review intelligence on WMD', February 3, 2004.
Statement by the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in the House of Commons
Mr Speaker With permission, I should like to make a statement.
The Prime Minister has decided to establish a Committee to Review intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction. This Committee will be composed of Privy Councillors. It will have the following Terms of Reference:
The Prime Minister has asked the Committee to report before the summer recess.
The Committee will follow the precedent in terms of procedures of the Franks Committee and will have access to all intelligence reports and assessments and other relevant Government papers, and will be able to call witnesses to give oral evidence in private.
The Committee will work closely with the US inquiry and with the Iraq Survey Group.
The Committee will submit its final conclusions to the Prime Minister in a form for publication, along with any classified recommendations and material.
The Government, of course, will cooperate fully with the Committee.
The Members of the Committee will be The Lord Butler of Brockwell, the Chairman, Sir John Chilcot and Field Marshal Lord Inge. It will also include 2 senior members of this House, the Rt Hon Member for Dewsbury (Ann Taylor), and the Member for East Hampshire (Mr Mates), who will be made a Privy Councillor.
In settling the terms of the inquiry and its membership, there have of course been discussions with the leaders of the two main Opposition parties. I regret, however, that the leader of the Liberal Democrat party has declined to support the inquiry. That, and that alone, explains why no senior member of the Liberal Democrats is a member of the committee.
As the House will be well aware, there have already been three inquiries into aspects of the Iraq war. The first, established in early May last year, was conducted by the Intelligence and Security Committee. It considered in some detail the intelligence received in London, and its assessment and use, including in the Dossier. It reported to Parliament on 9 September.
The second report, by the Foreign Affairs Committee, was established on 3 June last year, against the background of the controversy surrounding the Andrew Gilligan report on the Today programme on 29 May. It reported to this House on 7 July.
The third report was the judicial inquiry by Lord Hutton, which was established following the death of Dr David Kelly. It of course reported last Wednesday.
Although the terms of reference of the three inquiries varied, a central theme of each of them was whether the Government had acted improperly or dishonestly in using the intelligence available to it. Echoing the conclusions of the earlier reports, and in categorical terms, Lord Hutton made emphatic last week that such allegations were unfounded. This new inquiry, obviously will not revisit the issues so comprehensively covered by Lord Hutton.
While those inquiries were underway, three proposals put before the House in June, July and late October, on Opposition motions, calling for wider inquiries into aspects of the Government's handling of events in the run-up to the Iraq war. At the time the Government resisted those calls, including on the grounds that the inquiries already underway should be allowed to complete their work. Later, both the Prime Minister and I referred also to the continuing activities of the Iraq Survey Group.
Over the past week, we have seen the publication of the Hutton Report, and the evidence of Dr David Kay, former Head of the Iraq Survey Group to a US Congressional Committee. It has emerged also that the ISG may take longer to report than we had all originally envisaged. All that has led the Government now to judge that it is appropriate to establish this new inquiry of Privy Councillors.
Lord Hutton dealt conclusively with the grave charge against the Government that we had in some way acted improperly or dishonestly in the preparation of intelligence put before the House and the public.
The Government recognise - and always have - that there are wider and entirely legitimate concerns about the reliability of the original intelligence which have been heightened by Dr Kay's evidence. When he gave evidence before the US Congress last week, on 28 January, he repeatedly emphasised his continued support for the decision to take military action against Iraq, and his belief still today that Iraq was in clear and material violation of UNSCR 1441. He stated also:
'Prior to the war, my view was that the best evidence that I had seen was that Iraq, indeed, had weapons of mass destruction. I would also point out that many governments that chose not to support this war - certainly the French President Chirac, referred to Iraq's possession of WMD. The German intelligence certainly believed that there was WMD.'
Dr Kay added: 'It turns out that we were all wrong, probably in my judgement, and that is most disturbing.'
In the intervening period since the Iraq war began, there have, however, been events elsewhere which have greatly increased anxieties about the proliferation of WMD, of the need for reliable intelligence and effective international action. According to reports over the weekend, an individual has sold nuclear secrets to North Korea. Iran, for a long time, did not report all that it should have reported to the IAEA under its Safeguards Agreement. Libya was in breach of its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and both countries are now the subject of considerable activity by the International Atomic Energy Agency. There are other concerns too. So we have judged it prudent for this inquiry to consider these wider issues as set out in its terms of reference.
But of course, a great focus of the Committee's work will be on Iraq, and rightly so.
It is, however, important to remind ourselves both about the significance and the limits of the use of intelligence in relation to Iraq. The September Dossier made a powerful case for the world to take notice of Iraq; it did not make a case for military action. As the record shows, the case for military action was fundamentally based upon Iraq's breach of UNSCR 1441.
Iraq had used WMD against its own people and against its neighbour Iran. Saddam Hussein had invaded two of Iraq's neighbours, leading to the deaths of one million people. For 12 years after the Iraqi army was expelled from Kuwait, Saddam Hussein defied repeated UN Resolutions calling for him to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors to dismantle his WMD programmes. Resolution 1441 unanimously found Iraq in material breach of previous Resolutions and offered it a 'final opportunity' to comply fully and immediately with UN inspectors, or face 'serious consequences'. The head of the UN inspectors, Dr Hans Blix, published on 7 March 2003 a 173-page document listing the unresolved issues in respect of Iraq's WMD programmes, a document that I placed before the House in a Command paper some days later.
All that painted a compelling picture. As the Prime Minister and I have said repeatedly, it would have been gravely irresponsible not to have acted against this. We took the right decision in agreeing military action against Iraq, and it is still, in my judgement, the right decision today.
For the sake of completeness, it may be helpful to give a more rounded picture of Dr Kay's evidence to Congress last week. These are some of the things that he said:
'I think when we have a complete record you're going to discover that after 1998 the Iraqi regime became a regime that was totally corrupt. Individuals were out for their own protection. And in a world where we know others are seeking WMD, the likelihood at some point in the future of a seller and a buyer meeting up would have made that a far more dangerous country than even we anticipated with what may turn out not to be a fully accurate estimate.'
'All I can say is if you read the total body of intelligence in the last 12 to 15 years that flowed on Iraq, I quite frankly think it would be hard to come to a conclusion other than Iraq was a gathering, serious threat to the world with regard to WMD.'
'I think you will have, when you get the final Iraq Survey Group report, pretty compelling evidence that Saddam had the intention of continuing the pursuit of WMD when the opportunity arose.'
I will place in the Library of the House a full copy of Dr Kay's evidence.
Let me take this opportunity to pay tribute to the outstanding work of the British intelligence agencies around the world, often in difficult and hostile conditions. This inquiry is emphatically not a challenge to that vital work, nor to the dedication and professionalism of the people who work in those agencies, but what the inquiry should do is to help the Government better to evaluate and to assess the information they provide.
The decision that this House took 10 months ago to go to war was justified given the defiance of a regime that had uniquely used WMD and had refused for so long to comply with obligations unanimously imposed upon it by the United Nations Security Council.
That is a decision for which we, as elected representatives in this House, took responsibility and for which we will continue to take responsibility. We cannot sub-contract that responsibility to any inquiry, however distinguished. But I believe that Lord Butler and his colleagues will be able to perform a most valuable service to the House and to the country and I express my appreciation to them.
Source: UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, http://www.fco.gov.uk.
© 2003 The Acronym Institute.