Kay: No weapons yet, but evidence of intent
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As expected, the CIA's lead weapons inspector told congressional intelligence committees Thursday that his team has not yet found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
However, David Kay said inspectors have found evidence of a biological weapons program. He also noted more substantial activity in missile production than Iraq disclosed to the United Nations.
Kay said his inspectors need more time before conclusions can be reached, and he urged patience.
"Believe me, we're working as hard as we can. I know the importance attached to this work. 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," Kay said. "We have found a great deal, much of which was not declared to the United Nations."
Kay said inspectors have found no weapons, but said he is not ready to say that there are no weapons to be found.
He said the inspectors' task is made difficult by Iraqis still loyal to Saddam Hussein's ousted regime, but also because even the bulkiest materials they are looking for can be hidden in space not much larger than a two-car garage.
"It's a huge country and there's a lot to do," he said.
Kay said evidence of a nuclear weapons program was the least solid.
"That's the program we know the least about and have the least confidence in saying what it meant," he said. "Clearly it does not look like an active, resurgent program based on what we have found so far."
Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, said he was distressed by Kay's request for more time.
"Ladies and gentleman, that's the reason we went to war and that's the reason that some of us voted on that authorization bill," Rockefeller said. "We are ... talking about intent, and talking about facilities, but we have nothing we can point to.
"Did we misread it? Did they mislead us? Or did we simply get it wrong?," he said. "Either way you look at this, it's not a good answer."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday it is too early to reach conclusions about whether there were unconventional weapons in Iraq before the U.S. invaded in March.
"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."
Before Kay spoke Thursday, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, said he did not expect any smoking gun-style evidence.
It is "simply going to take a long time" to determine what happened to the weapons programs the Bush administration said required a U.S.-led invasion that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in April.
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.
House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Porter Goss, R-Florida, and committee member Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, had criticized the CIA's pre-war intelligence on Iraq in a letter to 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.
"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."
In the letter, Tenet also complains about the timing of the complaints from the Hill, saying it is premature, since Kay has much more work to do.
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.
In a July report to Congress, Kay said investigators were making solid progress. He told reporters that investigators had uncovered useful documents about Iraq's WMD programs and was getting increased cooperation from Iraqis.
"I think the American people should be prepared for surprises," Kay said in July. "I think it's very likely that we will discover remarkable surprises in this enterprise."
But he cautioned that Saddam had engaged in an "amazing" active deception program that would be difficult to unravel.
"It's going to take time. The Iraqis had over two decades to develop these weapons, and hiding them was an essential part of their program," Kay said.
CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.