"We never said there was an acute threat"
By Spiegel Online
[In his eagerly awaited speech, CIA head Tenet defended the work of the American secret service before the Iraq war. One is never completely right or completely wrong in this business, he said. Only vague information on the existence of weapons of mass destruction could be presented. In the meantime, president Bush continued to justify the war. This article published on February 5, 2004 by Spiegel Online is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,285057,00.html.]
Washington - "in the secret service business, one is practically never completely right or entirely wrong", Tenet said at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The head of the CIA emphasized that secret service experts in their reports for US politicians drew an objective picture of a "brutal dictator" who sought to deceive the world public and worked on programs that "could threaten our interests".
However the co-workers of the secret services never said there was an acute threat in Iraq. Only vague knowledge about the existence of weapons of mass destruction existed in the country before the Iraq war. Conflicting information and divergent analyses predominated.
Tenet denies that the CIA was under political pressure in the Iraq question to justify the Iraq war. "No one told us what we should say."
The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is in no way over. The American population will be informed as soon as the truth comes to light. Saddam Hussein's extent and success in realizing his plans for developing weapons of mass destruction before the war are still unexplained.
With this statement, Tenet explicitly contradicted the information of the US weapons inspector in Iraq, David Kay, who recently retired. This inspector said 85 percent of the Iraqi weapons program was investigated without any evidence for the existence of weapons of mass destruction. Kay criticized the secret services on account of unfounded information.
Saddam Hussein lied repeatedly about weapons of mass destruction, Tenet said. Unequivocal evidence was presented that biological and chemical weapons existed in Iraq. There was also evidence for Saddam's intention to develop nuclear weapons.
In the meantime Bush spoke more of an immediate threat that started from Iraq. Saddam Hussein's dictatorial regime was one of the most brutal, most corrupt and most dangerous in the world, Bush said in South Carolina. For years, Saddam Hussein supported terrorists. Now he sits in a prison cell.
Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld also defended the decision for the Iraq war before Tenet's speech. It was possible that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction but he wasn't ready to draw that conclusion. It was too early for that, Rumsfeld said at a congressional hearing. On top of that, the world is better without Saddam Hussein.
In the course of his speech, Tenet praised the work of the secret service. The disclosure of nuclear smuggling by the top Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan was an achievement of the CIA. Agents had observed Khan's network for a long time. Together with the Brits, the US secret service identified the network, its contacts and financiers. "Our spies infiltrated the network in a series of risky operations over the past years." In this way the shipment of prohibited materials to Libya was successfully stopped.