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INSIGHT

Aired June 3, 2003 - 17:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECY. OF STATE: There were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It wasn't a figment of anyone's imagination.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MIN.: The idea that we doctored such intelligence is completely and totally false.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Missing in action: where are Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Why haven't they been found? And what if they never are?

MALCOLM SAVIDGE, LABOR MP: Both the legislature and the people may have been mislead into war. That would surely be a graver charge than anything involved in Watergate, serious as that was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MANN: Hello and welcome.

Tony Blair led Britain in a war most of its people didn't want in alliance with a United States president they didn't like, and he didn't because he said it was the right thing to do.

Iraq, he said, could not be trusted with vast stores of weapons of mass destruction.

But in the eight weeks since the war ended, there are now questions about the trust that people put in Tony Blair, and whether the case he made for war was based on errors, exaggerations or even outright lies.

There are similar questions being raised in the United States. The Blair government, though, may be much more vulnerable than the Bush administration.

On our program today, a smaller war now, over the weapons.

We begin now with CNN's Walter Rodgers.

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GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of serin, mustard and VX nerve agent.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four months and one war later, the poison gas stocks and chemical weapons the Americans and British used as a pretense for an attack on Iraq still have not been found.

A lesser concern for President Bush apparently, but here in Britain there are now allegations British Prime Minister Tony Blair lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to dupe the British people and lead Britain into a war most people here did not want.

It's being called Tony Blair's Watergate, with allegations he doctored intelligence reports to exaggerate the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

BLAIR: I stand absolutely 100 percent behind the evidence based on intelligence that we presented to people. And let me just make one or two things clear. The idea that we doctored such intelligence is completely and totally false.

RODGERS: Claire Short, who quit Blair's cabinet after the war, has three times publicly called the prime minister a liar. The problem does not seem as if it will not go away. The problem for Blair comes largely from left-wingers in his own Labor Party who want to see him humiliated and punished.

Some are not without political ambitions of their own.

ROBIN COOK, BRITISH FOREIGN SECY.: We ended up in war. We ended up in war because we were told that Saddam Hussein was an urgent, compelling menace. He's turned out not to have any weapons of mass destruction with which he threatened either us or any of his neighbors.

RODGERS: Europe was ever skeptical about this war. Russia's President Vladimir Putin openly mocked Prime Minister Blair, demanding to know where is that arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer also publicly challenged U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

JOSCHKA FISCHER, GERMAN FOREIGN MIN.: You have to make the case. And to make the case in a democracy, you must convince by yourself. And excuse me, I'm not convinced.

RODGERS: Trust is becoming a serious problem for Tony Blair. This YouGov poll in the "Daily Telegraph" shows 44 percent of voters now feel misled about the threat of Iraq's illegal weapons.

A mere 51 percent believe Iraq' possessed Iraq possessed any weapons of mass destruction.

ROSEMARY HOLLIS, INSTITUTE OF INTL. AFFAIRS: The issue is that if the prime minister exaggerated the danger posed by weapons of mass destruction, if they cannot be found, then the grounds on which he argued for war are questionable.

RODGERS: What Mr. Blair most needs now is credible proof. His closest friends offer only words.

POWELL: There is no question. There is no debate here. Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

RODGERS: For many Americans, the downfall of Saddam Hussein as well as the discovery of thousands of mass graves of victims of his regime were ample justification for war. That isn't good enough for Mr. Blair's homegrown critics, however.

(on camera): The problem is, Britain and Europe never publicly at least bought in to the argument for regime change in Iraq. That left the only legal rationale for war to be Iraq's illegal weapons of mass destruction, which nobody seems able to find.

Walter Rodgers, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MANN: Just in to CNN, news that a British parliamentary committee has now decided to probe the government's decision to go to war Iraq. It will be the Foreign Affairs Committee that will take up the issue.

Before we heard that news, we were in touch with one Labor MP, Malcolm Savidge, member for Aberdeen North, who said a probe was necessary because the questions being raised rise so far above ordinary political accusations.

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SAVIDGE: I think one has to say that these are the most serious of allegations that are being made in fact both in Britain and America.

After all, it's being suggested that both the legislature and the people may have been mislead into war. That would surely be a graver charger than anything involved in Watergate, serious as that was. It really would be a case of a serious crime and misdemeanor, if it was true.

And that's why I think it's very important that we should have proper investigations in both countries, Britain and America.

MANN: Let me ask you personally if there is any remark, any speech to parliament, any public statement the prime minister made that seems particularly dubious or questionable to you.

SAVIDGE: I think first of all just the general -- the general issue that was being raised on both sides of the Atlantic, suggesting that there would be an immediate threat coming from Iraq and from its weapons of mass destruction.

This concern that, for example, in the dossier that Britain produced - - and it was repeated in the dossier and it was also stated in the prime minister's forward and what he said in parliament, that weapons of mass destruction could be activated within 45 minutes.

We now are informed that that came from a single witness and was not independently corroborated. I would have thought it should have been very important that we should have at least been told that it was only coming from a single source.

Similarly, the evidence that Britain and America produced as to the restarting of the nuclear weapons program, we're now told by the United Nations inspectors was based on documents which were very obviously forged. That obviously causes concern.

MANN: So how does the Blair government address those questions now?

SAVIDGE: I think what has to happen is, that in Britain, as is already happening of course in the United States, we have to setup proper independent inquiries into precisely what the intelligence information was, how this was handled by the politicians, whether or not it was accurate.

I think that's important, because there can really be no more serious question than whether both our countries sent our forces into war to kill and to be killed on an a solid basis, or on one which was insecured.

MANN: One last quick question for you. When we began our conversation, you compared this to Watergate. Of course, Richard Nixon resigned because of Watergate.

When you look down the road, could Tony Blair be forced to give up office because of this, do you think?

SAVIDGE: I think what I'm asking for at present is an inquiry. What I said is that there have been -- allegations have been, which if they were true, would obviously be more serious than Watergate.

Obviously, if it were -- if some of the allegations that have been made were proved true, I would have thought there would be questions raised on both sides of the Atlantic as to whether there had been misleading of our public.

But really, that's where I'm saying what we need is full a proper and open investigation and I believe it's wrong for us to pre-judge what the results of that will be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MANN: We take a break. When we come back, the questions haunting the Bush administration.

Stay with us for that.

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L. PAUL BREMMER, U.S. ADM. OF IRAQ: I think we will -- we will find something at some point. It seems very hard to believe that Saddam Hussein would have put his people through the misery he put them through for 12 years, given up billions and billions of dollars in revenue, if he didn't have something to hide.

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MANN: Welcome back.

L. Paul Bremmer, the U.S. administration of Iraq, speaking to reporters in Baghdad.

Back in the United States at the same time, though, there's a very unusual debate raging inside the intelligence community, unusual and public.

A group of former intelligence officials, most of them from the CIA, has written to President Bush that the intelligence that lead to the war with Iraq was, to use their words, "cooked and warped" in a systematic way.

With that accusation hanging in the air, the head of the CIA, George Tenet, issued a very unusual statement of his own, defending his agency. Spy chiefs in the United States don't normally debate in the daily news.

Joining us now to talk about all of this is Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who leads the group that wrote the present, a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Thanks so much for being with us.

You make a very, very serious accusation, not just that the information about Iraq was wrong, but that it was intentionally wrong, that it was cooked or that it was warped. Why do you say that? What evidence is there?

RAY MCGOVERN, FMR. CIA ANALYST: Well, Malcolm (sic), I don't ask you to believe or trust my word on this. Think about the forgery.

These were documents that purported to show that Iraq was seeking uranium from the African country of Niger. We know that it was known to be a forgery a year ago, and yet that information was used with Congress to get their approval to authorize the president to make war, and people like Representative Henry Waxman from Californian and others are in high (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and they should be. Because as your previous speaker, Malcolm Savidge, the British MP said, there can be no more important question than putting our troops in danger on the basis of contrived, forged information.

MANN: Forgive me for interrupting. That forgery has been widely acknowledged. It is a mystery, I think, to many of us, what exactly went on there, but the United States and the United Kingdom didn't go to war simply because of the forgeries from Niger. They went on the basis of satellite intelligence, human intelligence, years of obfuscation and open deception by the Iraqi government.

When you look at it, is it really clear that collecting all of that evidence, all of it was the product of some kind of fraud on the president and the people of the United States?

MCGOVERN: Not so. It was not based on a complete analysis of all this information.

What it was based on was a small group that was created by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz in the bowels of the Pentagon. When Rumsfeld couldn't get the answers that he wanted from the Central Intelligence agency, he created his own mini-CIA in the bowels of the Pentagon, recruited some congressional staffers, some PR people and a couple of lawyers, and they had their own intelligence assessment operation.

MANN: This is the Office of Special Plans that you're talking about.

MCGOVERN: Correct.

MANN: Tell us more about that. Is that where the falsehoods came from, to your mind?

MCGOVERN: To a large degree. They fed on reports from Chalabi and his so-called agents inside Iraq.

MANN: Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress.

MCGOVERN: Correct, who was being paid by the Pentagon.

So it came full circle. They paid him to say the things that they wanted to hear, and those things in turn were served up to Rumsfeld and the president as fact.

And what normally happens in those situations is you get a report about a chemical installation in Iraq. You try to confirm that report by laying on imagery or intercepted communications.

In this case, both of those genre of evidence were controlled by Rumsfeld and so unlike in previous cases of this kind, where the CIA controlled the imagery analysis, this time it's Rumsfeld doing that, and you can imagine it would take a lot of courage on the part of a imagery analyst to say we can't confirm the reports of your favorite exiles.

MANN: Are you meaning to make what sounds like a very, very serious accusation, that the sitting secretary of defense knowingly misled the president and the people of the United States, to introduce -- to induce them to go to war?

MCGOVERN: I'm not making that accusation. I'm telling you that the evidence is there. They used forged documents that they knew to be forged. And they persuaded members of Congress based on those forged documents. And talk to Henry Waxman about that.

MANN: Why would they do that?

MCGOVERN: Well, all you need do is look at "Mein Kampf." The U.S. "Mein Kampf". You probably remember that "Mein Kampf" laid down the framework for Hitler's campaigns and for his strategy. Well, there's a "Mein Kampf" for the U.S. scene, and it's called the "Project for a New American Century." Download it from its Web site and you'll see the documents going back to 1992, which outline everything that is intended by this crew that's running Iraqi policy.

MANN: We should just tell our audience very quickly that a group of thinkers inside the conservative movement in the United States came up with certain plans for U.S. foreign policy. That's what you're making reference to.

MCGOVERN: Exactly.

MANN: But you're framing it in really, really accusatory terms, comparing them to Adolph Hitler.

MCGOVERN: It's not -- well, it's the same kind of strategic plan, where the United States would be the dominant power in the world, and what better way to start that than to dominate the oil-rich Middle East. And Iraq, as you know, sits on top of 25 percent of the proven oil reserves of this world.

And not only that, but the other part of this is that Israel's objective is akin to our own. Israel very much would like to dominate the Middle East, which in effect it does now. And so this war was as much about Israeli strategic objectives as it was U.S. strategic objectives.

MANN: On that note, Ray McGovern of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, thank you so much for being with us.

MCGOVERN: It was a pleasure.

MANN: We take another break. When we come back, the turning point: the most important accusations and what they have since amounted to.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECY.-GEN.: Well, I think the search is going on, and we will wait and see. So far, nothing has been found. If they don't find something, obviously, there'll be lots of questions. And we are all aware of that.

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MANN: It doesn't inspire the same kind of passion it once did, but the United Nations Security Council is still interested in what's happening with the weapons inspections in Iraq.

On Monday, it received its latest report on the issue.

Welcome back.

The report is a mixed picture. It says U.N. inspectors had found no evidence Iraq had resumed it's weapons of mass destruction programs or that they'd found significant quantities of any such items.

It does say they had a lot of questions and leads to follow-up before the war forced them to stop their work.

From more on all of this, we're joined now by Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan organization based in Washington.

Thanks so much for being with us.

I'm going to take you back, if you'll go with us, to February and to the United Nations Security Council. And U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who gave that really, the word is used a lot, but it really was a historic speech, I think, trying to convince the world that the United States was right, and that the United Nations should follow, when it came to the coming war in Iraq.

The Powell speech went on for some time, but he made a series of very specific points. Let's go to the first one that we've selected for the purposes of today.

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POWELL: Move, move. The expression (ph), the expression (ph) I got it. Nerve agents. Nerve agents.

Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough agent to fill 16,000 battle-field rockets. Even the low end of 100 tons of agent would enable Saddam Hussein to cause mass casualties across more than 100 square miles of territory.

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MANN: Daryl Kimball, 100 tons of nerve agent, maybe more. The United States says it is still looking; it could be out there somewhere.

Is 100 tons of nerve agent easy to hide, hard to find, do you think?

DARRELL KIMBALL, ARMS CONTROL ASSOC.: Well, what Secretary Powell was talking about there was that Iraq is believed to have had the material to make enough -- material to make that amount of nerve agents.

What the inspectors knew in 1998 and what Hans Blix reported to the U.N. this week was that they believed that Iraq still might have those kinds of quantities of materials, to make that amount of nerve agent.

But the capability to do so does not constitute the presence of these kinds of weapons, and that's what this controversy is very much about. It is about whether the U.S. claim that Iraq had chemical agents, biological agents, and as the agents said, they could use them within 45 minutes, was accurate and is supported by the evidence that is out there in the field, evidence that is not turning up so far.

MANN: Well, they keep saying it's a matter of time. In the time that they've had, they have had some small measure of success. Why don't we go on to this second prediction, or the second fear that Colin Powell expressed to the United Nations.

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POWELL: One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file that we have on Iraq's biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents.

Let me take you inside that intelligence file and share with you what we know from eyewitness accounts. We have first hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails. We have diagramed what our sources reported about these mobile facilities.

Here you see both truck and railcar mounted mobile factories. The description our sources gave us of the technical features required by such facilities are highly detailed and extremely accurate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MANN: Daryl Kimball, they did find tucks that looked astounding like the ones in those drawings; proof that Colin Powell was on to something there?

KIMBALL: Well, they did find some trailers that are very much like the ones he described, but a few days ago a CIA report came out that noted that the suggestion that these were the labs that Colin Powell was talking about is based on a process of elimination of other possibilities regarding what these labs might have been used for.

Some Iraqis that they've talked to thus far say that these may have been used or were used to produce hydrogen for weather instruments.

The CIA report also says that additional facilities would have been necessary to dray the BW, biological weapons, agents, and then additional facilities to fill them into munitions.

So, again, this is evidence that capabilities existed, and I don't think this is surprising. But still, it does not match the very dire assessment that Secretary Powell and especially Secretary Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and the president were making about the imminent threat that these weapons, not just the capabilities but these weapons, pose to U.S. security.

MANN: Let's go back to February one last time to see what Colin Powell was warning us about then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: Iraq declared 8,500 liters of anthrax, but UNSCOM estimates that Saddam Hussein could have produced 25,000 liters. If concentrated into this dry form, this amount could be enough to fill tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of teaspoons, and Saddam Hussein has not verifiably accounted for even one teaspoon full of this deadly material.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MANN: 25,000 liters of anthrax. Could that still be out there? Would that be easy enough to hide so that the United States would not be able to find it after eight weeks?

KIMBALL: That could still be out there. It may take some more time to find it, if it's there. These inspections that the United States is now conducting are going to go on for some time, and I think we have to remember that Iraq was obfuscating what it was doing. It was telling the weapons inspectors one thing when they were doing another.

They were not being consistent to their word, so we had great reason to be concerned. But then again, did we have reason to take the military action that we did, cutting off the U.N. weapons inspectors when we did?

What we have to remember also is that the weapons inspectors and other members of the Security Council in March were arguing for more time -- let's beef up the inspections, let's beef up the number of inspectors in Iraq so that we can find these weapons if they are out there. Let's find the evidence.

What the United States is now doing is arguing for more time to find the weapons. They're beefing up the number of inspectors that it is using.

So one question I think we have to ask in retrospect is whether the right choice was made then about cutting off the inspectors, moving in with military action, if the real question here about this war was Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.

MANN: And I suppose we can end this by saying the committees of the British parliament and the U.S. Congress, both the Senate and the House, are going to be looking into just that.

Daryl Kimball, with the Arms Control Association, thanks so much for being with us.

That's INSIGHT for this day. I'm Jonathan Mann. The news continues.

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