January 26, 2004
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David Kay says his investigation showed that Iraqi officials "had an intention to continue to pursue their WMD activities."
CNN) -- Two days after resigning as the Bush administration's top weapons inspector in Iraq, David Kay said Sunday that his group found no evidence Iraq had stockpiled unconventional weapons before the U.S.-led invasion in March.
He said U.S. intelligence services owe President Bush an explanation for having concluded that Iraq had.
"My summary view, based on what I've seen, is we're very unlikely to find large stockpiles of weapons," he said on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition." "I don't think they exist."
It was the consensus among the intelligence agencies that Iraq had such weapons that led Bush to conclude that it posed an imminent threat that justified the U.S.-led invasion, Kay said.
"I actually think the intelligence community owes the president rather than the president owing the American people," he said.
"We have to remember that this view of Iraq was held during the Clinton administration and didn't change in the Bush administration," Kay said.
"It is not a political 'gotcha' issue. It is a serious issue of 'How you can come to a conclusion that is not matched in the future?'"
Other countries' intelligence agencies shared the U.S. conclusion that Iraq had stockpiled such weapons, though most disagreed with the United States about how best to respond.
Powell: Violations justified war
Asked if Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States at the time of the invasion, Kay said, "Based on the intelligence that existed, I think it was reasonable to reach the conclusion that Iraq posed an imminent threat."
Although his team concluded that Iraq did not possess large amounts of weapons of mass destruction ready for use, that does not necessarily mean it posed no imminent threat, he said. "That is a political judgment, not a technical judgment."
Secretary of State Colin Powell defended the administration's moves Sunday. "Military action was justified by Iraq's violation of 12 years of U.N. resolutions," he said in an interview with First Channel Russia during a visit to Moscow.
"Iraq had the intent to have weapons of mass destruction and they had previously used weapons of mass destruction. They had programs to develop such weapons," Powell said.
"And what we were trying to find out was what inventory they actually had, and we are still examining that question."
Saddam Hussein was given the opportunity to divulge what his country was doing but chose not to do so, which resulted in the U.S.-led campaign to oust him, Powell said.
"And the world is better off, the Iraqi people are better off, because Saddam Hussein is gone," Powell said. "And we will continue to make sure we find all elements of his weapons of mass destruction programs and whatever weapons there might be."
Powell made the Bush administration's case that Saddam's regime possessed such weapons in a presentation to the U.N. Security Council last year.
The discovery that Iran and Libya had nuclear programs also appears to have caught intelligence agencies by surprise, Kay said.
The Iranian program was uncovered not by intelligence agencies but by Iranian defectors, he said.
Libya's program contained a number of international clues, such as a connection to Pakistan and plants in Malaysia. "It was, in many ways, the biggest surprise of all, and it was missed," Kay said.
Last June, when he was appointed to lead the U.S. effort to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Kay expressed confidence they would be found.
Despite his group's failure to unearth such weapons, those predictions have not embarrassed him, he said.
"They're coming back to haunt me in the sense of why could we all be so wrong? ... It's an issue of the capabilities of one's intelligence service to collect valid, truthful information."
Kay said he would not submit a final report on his work in Iraq, since the task of searching for weapons will continue, led by Charles Duelfer, a longtime weapons inspector who replaces Kay as the new CIA special adviser.
Despite not finding any WMD, Kay said his team found that the Iraqi senior leadership "had an intention to continue to pursue their WMD activities. That they, in fact, had a large number of WMD-related activities."
Kay predicted investigators would find that Iraqi scientists were "working on developing weapons or weapons concepts that they had not moved into actual production."
Kay alleges Syria connection
Kay also raised the possibility -- one he first discussed in a weekend interview with "The Sunday Telegraph" of London -- that clues about banned weapons programs might reside across Iraq's western border.
"There is ample evidence of movement to Syria before the war -- satellite photographs, reports on the ground of a constant stream of trucks, cars, rail traffic across the border. We simply don't know what was moved," Kay said.
But, he said, "the Syrian government there has shown absolutely no interest in helping us resolve this issue."
Kay acknowledged that the truth might never be revealed. Widespread looting in Baghdad after the invasion destroyed many government records. "There's always going to be unresolved ambiguity here."
Kay said he resigned after his resources were diverted to other work from the exclusive goal of searching for unconventional weapons.
"It's very hard to run organizations with multiple missions, particularly if one half is controlled by the Defense Department and one half is controlled by the CIA. ... I thought that was the wrong thing to do."
Kay said he would like to write a book dealing with the issue of proliferation and intelligence.
"I'm not doing a Paul O'Neill," he said, referring to the former Bush treasury secretary who was the primary source for "The Price of Loyalty," a recent book that said the Bush administration was planning to invade Iraq almost from the time Bush took office.