WMD hunter reports on search
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The head of the CIA's search for banned weapons in Iraq says his group has found no weapons of mass destruction, but has found evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime planned to manufacture them.
"At this point we have found substantial evidence of an intent of senior level Iraqi officials, including Saddam, to continue production at some future point in time of weapons of mass destruction," David Kay told reporters Thursday after holding closed-door meetings with House and Senate committees to brief them on his work so far.
Kay said the Iraq Survey Group also found missiles and other equipment not declared to the United Nations weapons inspectors when they returned to Iraq last year.
"This includes substantial equipment and activity in the chemical and biological area, a much more substantial activity in the missile area; the Iraqis were engaged in a very full-scale program that would have extended their delivery systems out beyond 1,000 kilometers," he said.
"That is enough to reach Ankara, (Turkey); Cairo, (Egypt); Abu Dhabi, (United Arab Emirates); Riyadh, (Saudi Arabia); these were both ballistic missiles and land attack cruise missiles that would fit a Chinese Silkworm (missile)," the former U.N. weapons inspector said.
Kay said the missile program -- which showed evidence of foreign assistance -- included multiple programs using both liquid and solid fuel and would have eventually provided Iraq with missiles that could reach a 1,000 km range "with a significant payload."
U.N. sanctions against Iraq leveled after the first Gulf War did not allow Baghdad to possess any missiles that had a range of more than 150 km.
"There's a lot more work to do before we can declare we're at the end of this road rather than at the beginning. We have found a great deal, much of which was not declared to the United Nations," Kay said.
The search by Kay's team is expected to continue for another six to nine months.
Kay said that during its three months of work so far, his team also uncovered evidence that Iraq was tentatively trying to restart its nuclear program.
"It clearly does not look like a massive resurgent program based on what we've discovered now," he said.
Kay said there is still more work to do, and that his team of 1,200 people scouring the country may need six to nine more months before it has a grasp of the extent of Iraq's weapons programs.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, anticipating the release of Kay's report, said the war was caused by Saddam Hussein's refusal to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Straw, in a brief statement to journalists in London, said he had seen a synopsis of the report by the Iraq Survey Group, but he declined to comment on it until it is released in Washington.
"We need all to remember that the coalition ... decided to take military action to remove the Saddam regime because of our very clear assessment that Saddam Hussein and his regime were in clear material breach of U.N. Security Council resolution 1441 and many preceding that, and that therefore we did have to face the serious consequences which that resolution made clear would follow," Straw said.
"And I think we need therefore to judge the contents of what is in any event an interim report, against the reasons why we took military action back in March." (Full story)
Meanwhile, in a letter sent to committee leaders Wednesday, CIA Director George Tenet disagreed with congressional complaints that the pre-war intelligence on Iraq was inadequate.
Rep. Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and the House Intelligence Committee's chairman, Florida Republican Porter Goss, had criticized the CIA's pre-war intelligence on Iraq in a letter to agency chief Tenet last week.
Sources said the letter described the information pointing to Iraq's weapons programs as "circumstantial" and "fragmentary." The CIA disputed that judgment, calling it "premature and wrong."
"The suggestion by the committee that we did not challenge long-standing judgments and assessments is simply wrong," Tenet wrote in a letter to Harman and Goss.
Too early for conclusions
"I emphatically disagree with the committee's view that intelligence reports on Iraq's ties to al Qaeda should have been 'screened out by a more rigorous vetting process' because they were provided to analysts," Tenet wrote. "Providing analysts less information on Iraq's connections to terrorists makes no sense to me."
Tenet called the intelligence prior to the war in Iraq "honest and professional," and complained that the lawmakers publicized their complaints before giving the intelligence community a chance to respond.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Thursday also said that it was too early to reach conclusions about whether there were unconventional weapons in Iraq before the U.S. invasion.
"They have a lot of work left to do, they have a lot of people left to interrogate, they had a lot of leads still to worry through, they have a number of suspect sites that they have not yet visited," he said.
"It's quite low at this stage, but there are still a few, and I don't think the administration is having trouble coming to conclusions."
A U.S.-led force invaded Iraq in March and deposed Saddam, with the accusation that Baghdad violated U.N. resolutions by maintaining stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, long-range missiles and supporting efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.
Review search methods
Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector before the invasion, said last month that Iraq may have destroyed its banned weapons after the Persian Gulf War, as it claimed.
Former weapons inspector Garth Whitty said Kay's team may need to revisit some sites linked to Iraq's weapons programs and review its search methods.
"There must be a great deal of information," Whitty said. "The most powerful intelligence agencies in the world have been arrayed against Iraq for a long time, and they've got to go back over everything and make sure they're not missing things.
"The other surprise, I think, is that none of the key Iraqis involved in the program have given information that is of value, and I think that has to be revisited as well," he said. (CNN Access: Garth Whitty)
Former weapons inspector Charles Duelfer said the U.S. military's heavy-handed approach to Iraqi scientists like Mahdi Obeidi, who turned over centrifuge parts from Iraq's pre-1991 nuclear weapons programs after Saddam's fall, may have made Kay's work harder. Obeidi was arrested by troops in front of his family even after offering to tell the CIA what he knew.
"Many of the potential people who could cooperate, I think, have probably been scared off," he said.
CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.