to text on Mojahedin]
Briefing on policy and
intelligence matters. Participating were Douglas J. Feith, under
secretary of defense for policy, and William J. Luti, deputy under
secretary of defense for special plans and Near East and South
Feith: Good morning.
Bill, do you want to join me up here?
The reason that we were interested in
meeting with you this morning is to help lay to rest some stories
that have been circulating about the Defense Department that are
not true and are beginning to achieve the status of urban
legends. So we thought we would try to help straighten the record
There are four issues that I think I'd like to address. One
is this so-called, or alleged intelligence cell and its relation
to the Special Plans Office. Secondly is the issue of
intelligence judgments regarding Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction. Third is the department's alleged intent to topple
the Iranian regime, about which there have been a number of
inaccurate news stories. And finally, our policy and the Defense
Department's views on the organization called the MEK, the
Mujahedeen e Khalq, an Iranian terrorist group. And I'd like to
start with a review of some of these items, and then my colleague,
Bill Luti and I will be happy to take some of your questions.
On this so-called intelligence cell, which has been hyped in
various publications as a Department of Defense effort to create a
unit that would somehow substitute for the CIA, I'd like to give
you what actually is the story. After the September 11th attack,
I identified a requirement to think through what it means for the
Defense Department to be at war with a terrorist network. This
was an unusual circumstance -- warfare has traditionally been
against nation states -- and we understood that it presents a
number of peculiar conceptual challenges to be at war with a
network, or as I've described it as a network of networks of
[Jump to more text
So, I asked for some people to think through -- first
of all, to review the large amount of intelligence on terrorist
networks, and to think through how the various terrorist
organizations relate to each other and how they relate to
different groups that support them; in particular, state
sponsors. And we set up a small team to help digest the
intelligence that already existed on this very broad subject. And
the so-called cell comprised two full-time people. This is why
you see that I think it's almost comical that people think that
this was set up as somehow an alternative -- (Chuckles.) -- to the
intelligence community or to the CIA. I mean, it was two
full-time people. They drew from time to time on assistance from
a few others. I mean, altogether, we're talking about four
people, five people, you know, at one time or another, doing the
The team began its work in October of 2001. It was not
involved in intelligence collection. Rather, it relied on
reporting from the CIA and other parts of the intelligence
community. Its job was to review this intelligence to help digest
it for me and other policymakers, to help us develop Defense
Department strategy for the war on terrorism. And as I said, it
looked at these interrelationships among terrorist organizations
and their state sponsors. It did not confine its review to Iraq
or al Qaeda. I mean, it was looking at global terrorist networks
and the full range of state sponsors and other sources of support
for terrorist groups. Its main conclusion was that groups and
states were willing to cooperate across philosophical, ideological
So, it came up with the -- a number of interesting
connections of where, for example, Sunni and Shi'a groups
cooperated, or religious- based groups cooperated with secular
groups or states. And so it showed that we cannot simply assume
that the only cooperation that existed in the world among
terrorist groups and their sponsors was on some kind of pure
ideological or philosophical lines. I mean, this is not that
shocking for anybody who remembers that, for example, the Nazis
and the Soviets had a strategic alliance also. But it was a very
important point, because there was a lot of debate in government
circles and in academic circles about whether these different
groups do in fact cooperate across these philosophical lines.
I think what has become the focus of a lot of the press
stories about this is the fact that in the course of its work,
this team, in reviewing the intelligence that was provided to us
by the CIA and the intelligence community, came up with some
interesting observations about the linkages between Iraq and al
Qaeda. And when they did, and they brought those to the attention
of top-level officials here in the department, and we arranged for
a briefing of these items to Secretary Rumsfeld, he looked at that
and said, "That's interesting. Let's share it with George
Tenet." And so some members of the team and I went over, I think
it was in August of 2002, and shared some of these observations.
And these were simply observations of this team based on the
intelligence that the intelligence community had given to us, and
it was just in the course of their reading it, this was incidental
to the purpose of this group. But since they happened to come up
with it and since it was an important subject, we went over,
shared it with George and people at the CIA. My impression was it
was pretty well received, and that was that. It was one meeting.
There have been a number of misperceptions about this team.
One of them is that, there have been several press articles that
have identified this team with the Special Plans Office in Dr.
Luti's organization. Dr. Luti is the deputy under secretary of
defense for -- let me get it right --
Luti: Special Plans and Near Eastern/South Asian Affairs.
Feith: Special Plans and Near Eastern/South Asian Affairs.
Luti: Twenty-seven countries.
Feith: And this intelligence cell -- alleged -- which is
this team that did this particular project, which was not an
intelligence project -- it was a matter of digesting other
people's intelligence products -- this team is not -- was not part
of that office; wasn't related to it. In fact, the team stopped
doing its work -- basically, once we had that meeting with the CIA
and the team had given us a report on these terrorist network
interconnections, there was no team anymore. And they stopped
doing their work before the Special Plans Office, if I have it
straight, was actually created within Dr. Luti's organization.
Q: (Off mike.)
Luti: October of 2002. We had -- a decision was made in
August of 2002 to reorganize, and Doug will explain to you why.
But those are the dates.
Q: And that team stopped in August 2002?
Feith: Roughly. The -- (Chuckling.) -- and the Special
Plans Office was called Special Plans, because at the time,
calling it Iraq Planning Office might have undercut the -- our
diplomatic efforts with regard to Iraq and the U.N. and
elsewhere. We set up an office to address the whole range of
issues regarding Iraq planning.
Luti: And if I may, it's clear to make a distinction; it's a
policy planning office, just like -- in my shop, I have
essentially three directorates: A Middle East directorate with a
handful of people working, a South Asia directorate with a handful
of people working, and I used to have a Northern Gulf directorate,
which we expanded to meet the incredibly stepped-up requirements
in the summer and fall of last year to deal with Iraq. We needed
help, we needed people. So, we expanded it. And that's what I do
-- policy planning.
Feith: So, I mean, there have been some people who have kind
of concocted a goulash of snippets about this team that was
working on the terrorist interconnections and the Special Plans
Office, and they mixed them up when there's no basis for the mix.
As I mentioned, this team that was doing the terrorist
analysis was not focused on Iraq. I mean, they focused -- they
did not have a narrow focus. It was a global -- it was a global
exercise, even though this particular report that -- briefing, I
should say, that was prepared and given to the CIA focused on Iraq
and al Qaeda because, as I said, that kind of fell out
incidentally from the work that they were doing on global
Third, there are some press accounts that have tied the team
to what is called the intelligence collection program, which was a
program for debriefing Iraqi defectors over recent years. And in
fact the team had nothing to do with that program or the transfer
of the management of that program from the State Department to the
Defense HUMINT [Human Intelligence] Service.
And the -- with regard to this intelligence collection
program, the reports that were obtained from the debriefings of
these Iraq defectors were disseminated in the same way that other
intelligence reporting was disseminated, contrary to one
particular journalist account who suggested that the Special Plans
Office became a conduit for intelligence reports from the Iraqi
National Congress to the White House. That's just flatly not
true. And in any event, that was a Defense Intelligence
Agency/Defense HUMINT Service function, and not -- it was not
anything that was run out of the policy organization. So again,
this is part of the goulash of inaccuracies.
And then finally there were some accounts that asserted that
the team dealt with the weapons of mass destruction issue, and
there have been a number of stories in recent days that suggested
that this was a team that somehow developed the case on Iraqi
weapons of mass destruction, and it didn't -- I mean, it -- and
that is also flatly not true. The team was focused on terrorist
networks; it was not focused on weapons of mass destruction.
Now on this issue of intelligence judgments -- now to get to
my second topic, the intelligence judgments on Iraqi weapons of
mass destruction, Secretary of State Powell talked about our
intelligence sources when he gave his presentation on February 5th
to the U.N. Security Council. He played tapes of Iraqis who were
discussing -- these were intercepts of Iraqi communications in
which there were discussions of the concealing of weapons of mass
destruction from U.N. inspectors. Secretary Powell cited the
reports of witnesses and informants. He discussed the U.S.
government's knowledge of Iraq procurement efforts in the weapons
of mass destruction field. And he cited the old U.N. inspectorsí
organizations reporting on weapons of mass destruction, for which
Iraq had never accounted adequately.
And these judgments were based on intelligence that --
intelligence reports and intelligence analysis that not only went
back years but predated this administration. In February 1998
President Clinton said, "Iraq continues to conceal chemical and
biological weapons and the missiles that can deliver them, and
Iraq has the capacity to quickly restart production of these
weapons." Secretary of Defense Cohen, in -- also in 1998, said,
"I believe that Iraq is developing them, because they've used them
in the past. The acquisition of these types of weapons does make
Saddam Hussein a major player in the region. He's concerned about
the power, and the opportunity to have nuclear or biological or
chemical weapons gives him the status and the ability to project
that power to intimidate the neighbors in the region." And there
are similar quotations from Vice President Gore and others.
The -- it -- from our perspective, it's
pretty clear that the intelligence community's judgments
concerning Iraqi weapons of mass destruction did not undergo a
major change between the Clinton and Bush administrations. And
that's -- without regard to the issue of whether the officials
from the previous administration agree or disagree with the
policies of this administration about how to deal with the
problem, the basic intelligence reports did not undergo any kind
of change from the previous administration to this one.
On the third point that I raised, on
this issue of reports about the department's attitude toward
toppling the Iranian regime, there was a recent Financial Times
article that grossly misrepresented Secretary Rumsfeld's views on
Iran. It is true that the United
States government wants Iran to turn over all al Qaeda members
currently in Iran and to comply with its obligations under the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But as for the future of the
Iranian government, that's a matter to be decided by the Iranian
people. And our policy is what President Bush has said: that we
see Iranian citizens risking intimidation and death as they speak
out for liberty and human rights and democracy. Iranians, like
all people, have a right to choose their government and determine
their own destiny, and the United States supports their
aspirations to live in freedom. And everything that we have done
and that we support in this department is consistent with and
captured in that statement by the president. And it's not good to
be reading inaccurate descriptions of what our policy is on Iran.
A sub-point on that is the last point that I wanted to
address in these opening remarks, and that is the issue of the
policy toward the MEK, the Mujahedeen e Khalq. The United States
has designated the MEK a foreign terrorist organization; it is on
the State Department's list of such organizations. Accordingly,
we demanded the surrender of MEK forces in Iraq. That demand is
being complied with, and the MEK forces are being disarmed.
Now, earlier in the war, a U.S. commander on the ground
reached a temporary cease-fire with the MEK which he justified on
the grounds that it enabled our forces to contain the MEK forces
in cantonment areas, while not having to fight against them or to
actively disarm them. And it was also a way of making sure that
these MEK forces were not going to get into a clash with the
pro-Iranian forces. There were a number of different groups
floating around in Iraq that were not under our control, and we
didn't want them clashing in a way that could interfere with our
Now, because of that local decision to work out this
temporary arrangement, there were some people who believed that we
were giving the MEK special treatment, and there were even news
stories that said that the Defense Department planned to use the
MEK as a Northern Alliance-type organization -- making the analogy
to Afghanistan -- as a Northern Alliance-type organization against
the government of Iran. There never was such a plan. We will not
do that. We view the MEK as a terrorist organization and we are
treating it as such.
[back to previous
And with that, I will be happy to take your questions.
Q: On Iran, you made the point that the administration
supports the aspirations of the Iranian people. The question
seems to be how far are you going -- that's important to what kind
of support you're talking about, and people are speculating that
you could go as far as supporting by either actively undermining
the existing government or by taking military action. And can you
define exactly how far you would go?
Feith: Our policy is to urge the Iranians, as the president
has done publicly and as other top administration people have
done, to urge them to stop their support for terrorism -- Iran is
one of the world's leading supporters of terrorist organizations
-- to comply with their obligations under the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty and stop the development of nuclear
weapons. And we know that there is widespread unhappiness in the
country about the failures of the clerical regime. And the
president has expressed his sympathy with the aspirations of the
Iranians to have a free country. And that's our policy. And
that's what we're willing to say and do.
And there are a lot of countries in the world who are coming
increasingly to understand the dangers that this state support for
terrorism and the development of nuclear weapons by countries that
are not supposed to be developing them -- that represents the
international security. And so, we're getting increasing
international support for this kind of an approach. And we hope
that the Iranians will change their policies.
Q: [And now] to the intelligence, one of the more puzzling
aspects of all of this for a lot of people is the Niger letter,
and why U.S. officials seem so willing to accept and promulgate
what appears to people who were knowledgeable about it to have
clearly been a forgery. Can you explain -- and there's been a
couple of congressional requests for information about that. Can
you shed some light on that?
Feith: I mean, I'm aware of it in general. I don't know how
much light I could shed on it.
Luti: No, no, I can't either. No. I believe that that is
an issue between the source of the document and the analysts in
the government in the intelligence community, and they're sorting
that out. We're not particularly as policy people involved in
Q: I want to challenge your assumption here that the
intelligence has remained consistent throughout the '90s. This
administration, starting in September, painted the picture of an
imminent threat from weapons of mass destruction, yet the DIA --
this is -- and this is something that U.S. News and World broke [a
past sentence of] of this week, said in September, there's no
reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling
chemical weapons. Just square the circle. You say the
intelligence has been consistent, but yet you painted a much more
imminent threat than anybody in the Clinton administration did
during the '90s.
Feith: I think what we -- what we have been stressing is
that September 11th highlighted the special dangers that come from
the connection of weapons of mass destruction to state sponsors of
terrorism. The September 11th attack forced a lot of people to
rethink the dangers of both terrorism and weapons of mass
destruction in light of the possible connection between the two.
And the willingness of terrorist organizations to do as much
damage as they possibly can was something that was driven home,
you know, powerfully, by the September 11th attack. And the
recognition that if a terrorist organization, perfectly willing to
do as much damage as it possibly can, could get its hands on
weapons of mass destruction from one of the state sponsors that is
otherwise providing support to it, then the possibility exists,
the danger exists that you could have an attack that would kill
many times the number of people that were killed on September
So that caused a reassessment of the nature of the threat and
the risk. That's a different issue from the analysis of whether
one believes that the Iraqis possessed the capability to use
chemical weapons, biological weapons; whether they had a program
that was aiming toward the development of nuclear weapons. On the
basic question of whether the Iraqis had the capability, I don't
think there was any kind of major discontinuity in the analysis
over the years from the intelligence community.
Q: Well let me push back then, because Rumsfeld, starting in
September, and the president talked about that they had a
capability. They had -- they produced -- they have weapons; they
have this; they have that. That was a lot stronger than the
Clinton people or the intelligence community publicly talked about
in the '90s, and your DIA is even saying this now in September of
'02, raising questions about we don't have reliable information.
Feith: As I -- I mean, I quoted from -- President Clinton
said, in 1998, Iraq continues to conceal chemical and biological
weapons. And the U.N., in its report, I believe it was in January
of '99, when UNSCOM [United Nations Special Commission] shut down
its operations, said that there were large quantities of chemical
and biological weapons materials that were unaccounted for. And
this was precisely the point that President Bush stressed in --
and I don't remember whether it was in his U.N. speech or his
State of the Union speech, but he made a major focus on what the
UNSCOM report from 1999 said about chemical and biological weapons
So, I mean, this is -- this was not news. I mean, a number
of the recent stories have suggested that the basic question of
whether the Iraqis -- whether there was intelligence to support
the conclusion that the Iraqis had these weapons, there have been
a number of stories that have suggested that this whole issue
arose in recent months, and it didn't, it went back years.
Q: I think the question is that the issue -- you put a finer
point on it than in past years and you raised the bar in terms of
what Iraq allegedly had, and now we're seeing that they might not
have had what you allegedly said they did.
Feith: Well, we'll see. We'll see what they had.
But the main thing that I think was different in the way this
administration talked about the issue from the past, were the
conclusions, the strategic conclusions that we came to as a result
of the September 11 attack, and the particular strategic problems
that arise from a recognition that you can't rely to the extent
that we did in the past, or that at least some people did in the
past, you can't rely on deterrence to deal with the problem of
weapons of mass destruction in the hands of state sponsors of
terrorism because the possibility that those state sponsors might
employ chemical weapons or biological weapons by means of a
terrorist organization proxy means that they could use the weapons
without leaving their fingerprints, as it were, on the attack.
And that meant that the traditional deterrence approach was not
Q: If I could just go back, Mr. Secretary, and look at the
relationship -- I think three key relationships you have tried to
-- (inaudible) -- I think; the one between the intelligence team
and the special plans office, the intelligence team the Iraqi
exile project, and the intelligence team and the assessment on
weapons of mass destruction. Let me make sure I understand this
now. The team is going to put out a report that's going to become
a part of a larger body of material that policymakers, including
those in the special plans office, would look at, right? So it's
not to say while they may not have been resident in the same
office, I would -- it certainly sounds like special plans would be
aware of and would -- and have available those reports that they
make, right? I mean, they would --
Feith: If the -- yeah, I mean, if the connection is that a
team that is analyzing a policy problem by looking through a lot
of intelligence is going to generate a briefing that is going to
come to the attention of various offices -- I mean, that's true.
That connection exists. There were various offices that were
informed by, you know, that briefing.
Q: And given the importance that this team had within your
office, would it not also be logical that the special plans office
would give its -- whatever reports came from the team special
significance? And this is something you're looking at, you
created especially to look at the intelligence in a different way
Feith: No, no, you see, it was not created to look -- there
is this idea -- again, there have been a number of press stories
that have said that the reason this team was created was because
we wanted the intelligence looked at in a different way. That's
not true. It was -- what happened was, on September 11th we were
attacked, and the president announced we are in a global war
against terrorism. And the office that's responsible for strategy
is my office. And we asked ourselves: What does it mean to be at
war against terrorism? What -- and how is this different from
previous wars conceptually? How does one develop a strategy for
fighting an international network?
So it just was kind of an obvious thing to do. I asked for
some people to review the existing intelligence on what do we know
about the nature of these terrorist networks. This was not
because we were dissatisfied with, as some of the news stories
have suggested -- it's not because we were dissatisfied with the
intelligence or the intelligence analysis. It was because we
needed people looking at that intelligence, good intelligence
produced by the CIA and other agencies -- we needed people looking
at it from the point of view of what do we need to understand from
this intelligence about these connections to allow us to develop a
Defense Department strategy for the war on terrorism.
Q: That's looking at intelligence in a different way, with a
Feith: Well -- but I mean, not as --
Q: (Off mike.)
Feith: -- but it's been portrayed as this was done --
Q: They did not find their own intelligence. They took
existing intelligence, given this new perspective, given this new
focus you've asked them to address, and said, "Here. Here's a new
way of looking at it." Right? That's what you asked for.
Feith: You could say that, except the way it --
Q: All right. Let me move on to my second point, then.
Feith: Well, let me just say, the way it's been portrayed in
a number of stories was that this was set up because there was
dissatisfaction with what the intelligence community had done.
That's not true. It was set up because we had a different
function to be performed; we had a different mission to be
performed. We had to develop a strategy to fight the global war
on terrorism. And so, we needed to take this material and review
it in that light.
Q: Point two, on the Iraqi exile project. While these guys
didn't run, obviously, the interrogations or anything, they
obviously took the information that was provided for them from
those interviews, right? And they looked at it and they put it in
a larger context, as well. That's part of the existing
intelligence, no? Part of their definition?
Luti: No, Eric (sp), who took those reports and looked at
Q: The team.
Luti: No, no.
Q: They were ignorant of that when they did their analysis?
Luti: No, the information collection program was removed
from the State Department and deposited into Defense HUMINT
Service to ensure that proper tradecraft was used, accounting
procedures. And it was a program to interview Iraqi defectors.
Luti: The INC would remove them from Iraq to a different
location. DHS [Defense HUMINT Service] teams would go to that
location, debrief them according to the tradecraft -- all the
professional tradecraft that's required -- and then they would
write a report. Those reports would go into the intelligence
system, writ large --
Q: Right. And that would be one of the many things that
this team would look at, right, and draw upon for your -- for the
tasks that they were assigned, correct?
Feith: There were lots [of customers] throughout the
Luti: Many customers, not only --
Q: Were those reports given any extra weight or significance
by this team that you're aware of?
Luti: The information collection program was moved into the
Defense HUMINT --
Q: That's a mechanical issue. I'm asking about the report
that they produced, giving the fresh information that Iraqi exiles
are providing. And that's now going into the system. Among all
of the other things that they're going to look at, does the team
hone in on these type of reports as a special source and give them
that hint of added significance, that you're aware of? That's
essentially what the accusation --
Luti: No more than -- in fact, I'm trying to remember when
Q: (Inaudible.) -- you weigh it -- the intelligence that is
coming from defectors was given unusual and disproportionate
weight among all the other sources.
Luti: I don't know.
Q: Do you agree with that?
Luti: No. I don't know what the basis of that charge -- no,
no, there's been no basis for that. None whatsoever.
Q: But the third point was you said there's no connection
between this team and WMD. But you've just said that the
relationship between terrorists and terrorist states and WMD has
been -- is -- that was -- demonstrated how they --
Feith: No, I didn't mean no connection between the team and
WMD. If I said that, I misstated it. What I said is it was not
the purpose or the special focus of this team to look at WMD. Its
focus was to look at terrorist networks and the connection.
Q: (Inaudible.) -- terrorist networks, and you've just
explained how what 9/11 demonstrates is that terrorist networks
and WMD and their acquisition thereof are importantly
intertwined. And so, how do you not look at WMD when you're
looking at terrorist networks in the case of Iraq?
Feith: No, I didn't mean to suggest that they didn't look at
WMD at all. I'm saying that the mission that this team was given
was not: Look at WMD. The mission that they were given was:
Help us understand how these different organizations relate to
each other and to their state sponsors.
Q: That may not have been their stated mission, but
certainly that's one of the things they found, right?
Feith: I imagine -- yes, I imagine that they looked at WMD
along with other stuff. All I'm saying is it was not as it is
portrayed in a number of erroneous press stories that we've read.
It was not the purpose of this group to focus on the WMD issue.
Staff: Sir, I hate to bring this to a close, but I know
you're at the end of your time here. Maybe you can take one or
Q: Critics have raised the issue of the slanting of
intelligence findings, the alleged slanting, basically to conform
with the views of top policymakers. Can you say what pressure, if
any, was put on intelligence analysts in the CIA, DIA, anywhere
else, to endorse the view of Iraq possessing chemical and
biological weapon stockpiles and reconstituting the nuclear
weapons program as an imminent threat to U.S. interests? And can
you rule out that intelligence analysts may have perceived that
this pressure existed, whether it did or not?
Feith: I know of no pressure. I can't rule out what other
people may have perceived. Who knows what people perceive? I
know of nobody who pressured anybody. We have a -- we have a
normal and, I think, useful interchange between the intelligence
community and its customers, basically the policy community. It
is not a one-way transmission. If people understand the way
intelligence -- the intelligence agencies relate to their
customers, they understand that it's -- there's a process of back
and forth where we get reports, I get a briefing every morning. I
know that Secretary Rumsfeld has talked about this too. I mean,
we're all, I think, in the same boat, those of us who get daily
briefings from the CIA. I get a briefing. As I'm being briefed,
questions occur to me. I ask for clarification of items. I
sometimes say, "Well, that's an interesting point. That suggests
that it might be good to get a report on x, y, and z. And I'd
like to learn more about that." And those questions go back and
they produce additional work and reports. And the intelligence
community prides itself on being responsive when its customers
raise questions and make requests for additional information or
clarification or tables or historical perspective on some topic.
I mean, things go back and forth all the time. And, I mean, that
is the way a good system works.
And in this particular case, we, as customers, were analyzing
this information about terrorist networks, and when we happened to
come up with some interesting observations, we took them back and
gave them to the intelligence community. And I must say, I was
very pleased with the response that we got. I mean, people over
there said that's -- you know, that's worthy of looking at and
study. And I think that, you know, that George Tenet received it
very well and found it useful.
Q: Two questions. Are any of the people who were on the
intelligence team, which you said is now no longer doing that
work, are any of those people still paid by the department and
perhaps in other parts of your organization basically doing that
same work on other topics? That's my first question. Are any of
those people still there doing that work, perhaps on Iraq or on
And my second question, I am really puzzled why you two
gentlemen are exactly doing this briefing today. Neither of you
are well known to come down here and talk about what you read in
the news media. Were you asked to do this briefing by Secretary
Rumsfeld, by the White House, by Torie Clarke? Do you have any
sense that there's some article coming out somewhere in the news
media that you're trying to respond to ahead of time?
Feith: On the latter question first, there have been enough
articles that have come out already on these subjects that have
been inaccurate that -- and it's quite clear that some of the
articles that are inaccurate are getting reverberations in
numerous other articles that clearly are derivative of the mother
lode of inaccuracies here and there. And we just -- and since it
directly relates to our office, we just thought it might be useful
to straighten the record out. So --
Q: So this briefing was your idea?
Feith: This briefing was my idea. And -- I mean, I hope it
is in the nature of a public service.
Now, the first question you asked was --
Q: Is anybody who was on that intelligence team doing that
work still --
Feith: Well, as I mentioned before you arrived, the --
Q: No, I was here.
Feith: Oh. Okay. The team that has gotten so much
attention was two people, full-time. (Chuckling.) I mean, this is
much less than one would infer from a lot of the press coverage of
it. And altogether, as I said, there might have been a half a
dozen people who were in and out, working either on the team
Q: (Off mike.) --
Feith: And some of those people -- because some of them were
Reserve officers, so I mean, I think they're -- they've moved on,
but some of them are people who are still in the government.
Q: May -- what I'm not understanding is, are any of those
half dozen people -- bluntly, what I'm trying to ask -- doing the
same work, perhaps not in an assembled team --
Feith: No, this was a project.
Q: I understand that.
Feith: So the answer's no.
Q: But the question is, I want to make sure there's no
bureaucratic misunderstanding. That team has been disbanded.
That label is gone. But is that work, candidly, going on
Feith: "Disbanded" is a peculiar term to apply. They had a
project. They finished their project.
Q: And the project -- fine. The project is done.
Nonetheless, is that work of reviewing information still going on
in your organization? Is that basic task --
Feith: I would say that there are hundreds and hundreds,
perhaps thousands, of people in this building who review
intelligence for policy purposes every day. So that work is
ongoing by thousands of people in this department.
Q: So why did you need these special people?
Feith: As I explained, we had a particular requirement to
review the existing intelligence, to help us develop the strategy
for the Defense Department for the global war on terrorism.
(Cross talk.) I'll take one last question here. This lady
has had her hand up.
Q: And couple of -- (Inaudible.) -- here. These two people
you say you had managed to come up with a link, you say, between
al Qaeda and Iraq -- using the same intelligence, because you
didn't gather intelligence -- that the CIA hadn't really come up
with, and then you present this to George Tenet. Is that just
coincidental that these two -- was their analysis more intense?
Feith: I don't think it's all that unusual or hard to
understand. If a large amount of material is reviewed by fresh
eyes -- I mean, this -- I think this would apply to -- you know,
any intelligent people sitting down with this pile of
intelligence, looking it over, reading it over, has a chance of
finding certain things in it. I mean, ask yourself why new
history books get written about old events. I mean, people look
over very often the very same material. But in light of experience
or just because they see something that nobody had seen before,
certain connections become clear or appear, and, you know, new
hypotheses get developed and new facts surface. I mean, it's not
that mysterious. It's just -- there was an enormous amount of
intelligence about terrorist networks that had been developed for
many years before September 11th. And the idea that we would look
at it again in light of September 11th and maybe see some new
things in it shouldn't be that surprising.
Q: But you act as if the other intelligence agencies weren't
looking at it that way.
Feith: No, they were. I -- no, I'm not acting that way.
Q: Only in post-9/11. So why --
Feith: They were too, but, I mean, I don't know why it
should surprise anybody that any given group of people looking at
a mass of material might come up with a few interesting insights
that other people didn't come up with.
Q: And in --
Q: Why not just hire the CIA to do it then? I mean, that's
what they do full time.
Feith: Because, well --
Q: (Inaudible.) -- the DIA, and you have to get in your own
people and say, "This is what we're looking for. Go find it."
Feith: No. Nobody -- nobody helped -- see, this suggestion
that we said to them -- "This is what we're looking for. Go find
it." -- is precisely the inaccuracy that we are here to rebut.
Q: Can I just do one final one. Can I just --
Q: Can you give us an example of information that they found
that did not fit those scenarios; that did not say there was an
imminent danger; that did not present the facts that there was a
belief that they were -- had an active and ongoing weapons of mass
destruction program? Was that a part of what they found --
Feith: No, as I told you, the main thing that the briefing
of this team produced was not this Iraq-al Qaeda connection. That
was incidental. The main thing that the team produced was it
helped -- it helped educate a lot of people about the fact that
there was more cooperation and interconnection among these
terrorist organizations and state sponsors across ideological
lines than many people had appreciated before. That was really --
I mean, to sum it up in a sentence, that's it.
Q: Just one final point. What do think now of --
Feith: And this is her final point.
Q: (Laughs.) What do you think of the intelligence now?
You said we'll see about the weapons of mass destruction, and yet
some of the intelligence thus far that the United States was told
about has been wrong. The Iraqis didn't use chemical weapons when
American troops advanced. The first 200 sites you've checked that
were suspected sites for weapons of mass destruction had
nothing. You're backing away from some of the other sites, unless
you get further intelligence. Can you assess the intelligence
Feith: The process of gathering information about the Iraqi
programs is underway. I'm not going to come in and preempt the
careful work that's being done. As you all know, there's a major
new team going over to make systematic and comprehensive the work
on studying what exists in Iraq and what became of this and that,
about which we had information regarding the Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction programs. They'll do their systematic and
comprehensive work, and they'll come back and report.
Q: Can we talk about the last couple of months, though?
Feith: Thank you all.
Q: What about the last couple of months?
Feith: I'm not going to preempt what the team is -- (Off
mike as he leaves the podium.)