Daily Press Briefing[excerpts on reported dispute over Iraqi trailers]
U.S. Department of State
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
June 26, 2003
QUESTION: The issue of those two trailers and what it might have said -- what they might have said about Iraq's weapons is back in the news. I wondered what the State Department's view is today, and the Secretary's particularly because he has expressed confidence that it's telling evidence.
MR. BOUCHER: Our view and the Secretary's view, the U.S. Government view, is that these are mobile biological weapons laboratories. This view was expressed in a public paper put forth by the CIA and DIA analysts who had worked most extensively on the matter, most extensively and directly on the matter.
The reports today of a memo from our Intelligence and Research branch -- I'm not going to be able to describe in detail a particular memo, but I would say they, too, had looked at the situation. You have to remember, our Intelligence and Research Bureau basically looks at the same information everybody else does, but they also have their own angles, their own analysis of this. They did not dispute the conclusions that had been reached by the other agency analysts. They pointed out some questions that need to be looked at, issues that needed to be raised.
When the Secretary got this memo, he made sure it went over to the CIA right away. We have been assured by the CIA that those issues were considered, were looked at, and that they were confident and remain confident in their judgment that these are mobile biological weapons laboratories.
So there's no question of INR contradicting the CIA conclusions. They just raised some issues that they felt should be answered, needed to be answered, before conclusions like that were reached. And, indeed, we have been assured by those who reached the conclusions that those issues were considered.
QUESTION: I understand that and I appreciate it, but --
MR. BOUCHER: Slow down.
QUESTION: I understand and appreciate what you're saying. I do. And this is not challenging what you said, but this is to wonder if the further analysis or the further, the deeper view, or the expanded view State analysts had went to whether this is authentic information or not. In other words, did they question --
MR. BOUCHER: No. They looked at the same information, the same kind of technical information, descriptive information, engineering reports and things like that, and were, I guess, somewhat cautionary in terms of the kinds of conclusions that they felt could be reached on that particular information at that moment. They said there were other questions that need to be considered, and as I said, these questions were considered, and three, four weeks later, we are -- all of this stuff has been looked at. It has all been worked into the mix and the U.S. Government remains quite confident of the conclusions that we reached that these are mobile biological weapons laboratories.
QUESTION: You said they were somewhat cautionary, cautious about the conclusions. So at the initial stage, would it be correct to say that they were not, that they were not 100 percent -- they were not prepared to go out and say, "Yes, definitely these are mobile biological laboratories," but they would be now in the light of the clarifications which they've received quite recently, in the last week or so? Would that be a fair --
MR. BOUCHER: No. I wouldn't -- I don't think that's the process that I described to you. The process that I described to you is that in the initial stages, our analysts did look at much of the same information and said that they, personally, were not quite prepared to say with confidence yet that these were definitely and could only be mobile biological labs.
They didn't say, "These are not mobile biological labs." They said they weren't quite prepared to reach that conclusion yet, based on their -- what they had seen and their analysis of what we had. They pointed out a number of issues that they felt need to be considered before that kind of strong conclusion was reached. And, indeed, one of the first things the Secretary did with this memo is to make sure it went to the CIA, and he's kept in touch with the CIA Director and others to make sure that these issues were indeed considered.
They were considered. They have been further considered. And the people at the CIA and elsewhere who have reached these conclusions about it being mobile bio labs assure us that all those issues have been considered and that they remain confident in their conclusions. In fact, there has been nothing in the last few weeks that would do anything to lower their level of confidence, and we all remain confident in their conclusions that these are mobile bio labs.
QUESTION: The -- so the -- what exactly -- would it have been in mid-May, then, perhaps, that the INR Bureau were not prepared to say that they were --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think the memo was written in early June, that they raised some of these issues. It was, indeed, after the public -- after the publication of the CIA/DIA white paper.
This is a process that works. I mean, nobody should be surprised that there is debate and analysis and ongoing looks at information within the intelligence community. You know, debate is the way you get to the truth. And we always, within the intelligence agency -- particularly, when people are having to make a judgment call, we always have different points of view. And one of the roles of INR, one of the reasons we have an intelligence function at the State Department is so we have people who can look at things from different angles. And that's their job. That's what they did. The Secretary values very highly the fact that they have the integrity and they have the autonomy to reach -- to give -- raise other issues and reach other conclusions.
But, in many ways, within the intelligence community, as well as it works in the outside world, there is always debate on some of these things. And that's the only way that good analysis can proceed.
But let's go on to somebody else maybe, one of these days, or not?
QUESTION: Well, let me follow up on --
QUESTION: I'll do the same thing. So when the Secretary spoke in late May --
MR. BOUCHER: So I have answered it already then.
QUESTION: -- on this subject, was he aware that the INR Bureau was not prepared to endorse 100 percent the definitiveness of this conclusion?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think he had reached the memo -- I don't think he had gotten the memo at that point. But I would point out, once again, as I have before -- since you are saying the same thing, I'll say the same thing -- that the Secretary was -- that the INR memo did not contradict the conclusions. It was not an attempt to undercut, to contradict what had been said. It just said they were not ready to go that far yet. The Secretary wanted to make sure those issues had been considered. They had been considered, and he was quite comfortable with the conclusions that had been reached in the published paper, in what he had said, what the President said, and what we had all said.
QUESTION: So, Richard, would it be safe to say that the INR Bureau had not seen the information that the CIA and DIA had before the publication of their findings?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think it would be safe to say that. I assume they saw most, if not all, of the same information. That was what they based their own analysis on.
QUESTION: So why would they have not written this memo until after the publication of the findings? Why would they have not raised these questions earlier, do you think?
MR. BOUCHER: There is a logical pattern here that you can't -- you have information, okay? The analysts who are closest to the information, have worked on it most extensively and directly at the CIA and the DIA, produced an unclassified analysis of that information, including a confident conclusion that these were bio labs.
Having seen that conclusion, our INR folks said -- looked at the same aspects, looked at much of the same information, and said, "Whoa, maybe we're not quite ready to go that far. There's some issues here." Okay? So they couldn't raise those -- they couldn't say we're not ready to go that far until the others had reached their conclusion. I mean, it's just the way the thing evolved.
But then, having gotten the INR memo, having raised those issues with the CIA, we then knew, were assured by the analysts who had worked most extensively on this, that, indeed, all those issues had been considered and that they remained confident in the conclusion.
QUESTION: Well, what was the process, then, between February 5th and June 2nd, if it took -- well, I mean, Secretary Powell went out with this stuff on February 5th.
MR. BOUCHER: We didn't have the mobile bio labs in hand --
QUESTION: No, true.
MR. BOUCHER: -- until sometime in, what, April?
QUESTION: And these questions all arose from -- not just from the intelligence that you had before finding the labs, but all arose from the -- once you tentatively had the labs?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Nobody questioned whether Iraq had mobile biological laboratories. Nobody was questioning whether Saddam had a program to develop biological weapons and did develop mobile labs to do that. The only question that was raised was: Are these trucks -- is this it? Are these the trucks that we showed the diagrams of?
And as you know, we didn't go out the next day -- we did very careful analysis to make sure that these were, and we had a lot of experts look at these trucks. We had a lot of analysis of it before we started coming out with the conclusion that yes, indeed, these are the trucks. And as I said, some people have raised questions, said, hmm, maybe not quite ready to go that far myself, but -- because of certain issues. Those issues were looked at and we are very confident that these are, indeed, the mobile biological laboratories that the Secretary spoke of on February 5th.
QUESTION: I have another question. The article says that Tenet may not have seen this memo, but you say that Secretary Powell sent it over to the CIA?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure Tenet did see it personally at that time. I know we did share it with the CIA, but I don't know at what level and whether it was sent directly to Tenet or not.
QUESTION: Well, Secretary Powell speaks to the CIA, doesn't he? He speaks to --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that Secretary Powell spoke to the CIA. Secretary Powell was in Egypt at the time, so I don't think he was the one. He asked that it be shared with the CIA and I won't get in --
QUESTION: Oh, you said he sent it to the CIA immediately? He had it sent to the CIA?
MR. BOUCHER: He caused it to be sent to the CIA.
QUESTION: Okay. And he didn't follow up on it with any phone calls of his own?
MR. BOUCHER: He's been in touch subsequently with Tenet and others to make --
QUESTION: On this?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, on the question of labs, to make sure all these issues had been considered. And, indeed, they have considered them and remain confident, as always, in their conclusions.
QUESTION: Can you give us some indication of what the concerns were at the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not beyond what I've said, that the analysts over here who looked at the information were not -- did not feel prepared to come to that kind of conclusion yet themselves, and said we need to look at a number of areas before we reach that kind of conclusion. As I said, those areas had been looked at, were looked at, and everybody remains confident now that the CIA has done this kind of analysis.
QUESTION: Richard, I just want to make sure that I understand your last point in particular. Are you saying now that the analysts that wrote the memo in INR, that they now have changed their mind and believe that -- that -- just let me --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not saying that, and I was sort of asked that before.
QUESTION: Okay. I just --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to say that.
QUESTION: Just let me finish. Maybe I'm --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. No, keep going.
QUESTION: But that -- because you had said that they had raised potential questions as to alternative uses for the trailers and they were not prepared to say conclusively, as the CIA/DIA did, that the labs -- excuse me -- that the trailers were, in fact, labs.
Have these individuals changed their minds now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really know. I have not seen anything subsequent from them. What we have seen is subsequent from the experts at the CIA and elsewhere, who work on this more extensively, to say, "Yes, we're aware of all of those issues that were pointed out. We have looked at them. They were considered. I think they have been integrated into our judgment, and we remain confident of that judgment."
QUESTION: So when you -- sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: So we raised a bunch of issues. They looked at them, had looked at many of them and said, "No, we have answered all of those questions. We're confident in what we concluded."
QUESTION: When you say the conclusions of the analysts in INR did not contradict what the CIA/DIA had concluded, how -- I don't see that logic. Because the CIA/DIA had conclusively decided -- and, presumably, still believe that -- that there is no other, in their mind, logical use for these trailers than as bio labs, but the analysts here are saying that could be a possibility, but there are other possibilities, you know, missile refueling, whatever. Food storage, I think, was even one.
MR. BOUCHER: No, no, I am not going to get into any other possibilities.
QUESTION: You don't have to get into it. But I'm just saying that, how is that not contradicting?
MR. BOUCHER: But it's the difference between going in a different direction, and just not going that far down the road. I mean, the INR folks didn't say --
QUESTION: -- that you're wrong.
MR. BOUCHER: You know, they say it's this way, and we say it's that way. They just said, they say it's over there, and we say maybe we're right here right now. And, you know, if we answer these questions, we can get there. So they were all looking in the same direction; they just weren't quite ready to reach those conclusions yet.
QUESTION: It sounds like they are still not ready to reach the same --
MR. BOUCHER: No, it sounds like the people that we relied on for the judgment, the people who had worked more extensively on this, are confident in their conclusions. We trust them. We rely on them for that conclusion. We accept and endorse that conclusion. They remain confident of that conclusion. We remain confident of that conclusion.
QUESTION: Can I ask you how State feels --
QUESTION: Who are all these people who have a stake in that conclusion.
MR. BOUCHER: The people at CIA and DIA, who did the paper.
QUESTION: And State. That's right. That's my question.
QUESTION: Are you interested in the opinion of the INR?
MR. BOUCHER: We're always interested in the opinion of INR, and they share it freely whenever they feel like it.
QUESTION: But you haven't even asked them what they think now. You can't even say what they think now.
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I think we're all confident in the judgments that have been made by the intelligence, the broader intelligence community.
QUESTION: I wanted to come at it from the opposite end. I mean, on the pecking order, if that's the right phrase, of intelligence of this sort, State doesn't stand up there with the CIA and Defense on an issue like this, does it? What brought them into it? Isn't it essentially the CIA you rely on for this type of information? Why were you looking for corroboration from the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: It doesn't quite work that way.
QUESTION: Is it because the Secretary was taking a very public, important, visible stance that he wanted to hear what State might think?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't -- no, it's not. How can I say? It's not a voting system.
MR. BOUCHER: It's a way of getting at the truth. It's more like an academic community. You know, it doesn't -- there's the Einstein quote, you know, "It doesn't take 100 scientists to prove me wrong. It only takes one."
You've got to be -- the goal is that through the process of people raising issues, looking at these issues, analyzing things -- and we're part of that. And INR has an important role because they can look at things from a different angle. If they are right, they are right. If others are right, they are right. And at some point in all these things there is a balance of judgment.
The CIA/DIA paper that you all have was expressed in terms of "we are confident." Okay, that's a judgment, right? INR said they weren't quite ready to reach that judgment yet, but the people who had worked most extensively on this were.
MR. BOUCHER: And they still are.
MR. BOUCHER: And in the end, it is a judgment, but you go with the people who had worked mostly on this, who have looked at all the angles, who assure us that they've looked at all these angles and remain very confident in that judgment, and we remain very confident in that judgment.
QUESTION: You just said the people who work mostly on this --
MR. BOUCHER: More extensively and directly.
QUESTION: Meaning the CIA and the DIA?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Richard, next door to Iraq and Syria --
QUESTION: Could I just ask one more on this -- on the same subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Coupled with the report yesterday that one of your -- one of the INR analysts had reservations about public allegations about Cuba, what all exact -- I'm a bit puzzled what you see the role of the INR Bureau now. Clearly you don't -- how much regard -- how much weight do you attach to its conclusions upon these matters?
MR. BOUCHER: We have very high regard for INR. We have very high regard for the integrity of their analytical process. The Secretary has made that personally clear to them repeatedly, over time. We expect from INR a slightly different optic, a slightly different angle than others -- one that has a little more of the Secretary's interests in mind. And this is part of the debate. It's part of the discussion. It's part of the way we try to arrive at the truth of things. And so INR plays a very valuable role.
Does any one agency, because of its initials, have the definitive judgment on everything? Not necessarily. But INR provides us with insights, raises issues and provides analysis that's very important to our foreign policy process.