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Ex-Iraq inspector: Prewar intelligence failure 'disturbing'

Kay to Senate panel: 'It turns out we were all wrong'

"It's important to acknowledge failure," Kay told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Ex-weapons inspector David Kay says almost everyone was wrong about Saddam's WMD programs.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The former top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq on Wednesday blamed intelligence failures for the apparently incorrect conclusion that Saddam Hussein possessed large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction before the U.S.-led invasion.

David Kay told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he believed a "fundamental analysis of how we got here" is needed to ensure the best possible intelligence in the future.

Kay, who resigned last week as leader of the Iraq Survey Group searching for banned weapons, appeared before the Armed Services Committee after a closed-door session Wednesday morning with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Kay told the senators that the intelligence he had seen before the war indicated Saddam had banned weapons and that France and Germany -- countries that had opposed the war -- had stated that the Iraqi dictator possessed such weapons.

"It turns out we were all wrong, and that is most disturbing," Kay said.

Kay said that while it was "theoretically possible" large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons could be found in Iraq, the prospect was "highly unlikely."

He said he did not believe that anyone had pressured intelligence officials to conclude that Saddam's government had banned weapons.

"Almost in a perverse way, I wish it had been undue influence because we know how to correct that," Kay said. "We get rid of the people who, in fact, were exercising that.

"The fact that it wasn't tells me that we've got a much more fundamental problem of understanding what went wrong, and we've got to figure out what was there."

Asked if there should be an independent investigation, Kay said that "it's important to acknowledge failure."

"I must say my personal view -- and it's purely personal -- is that in this case, it will -- you will finally determine that it is going to take an outside inquiry both to do it and to give yourself and the American people the confidence that you have done it," Kay said.

He said the extensive looting that followed Saddam's ouster in April will leave an "unresolvable ambiguity" about what happened to the weapons programs.

"A lot of that traces to the failure, on April 9, to establish immediately physical security in Iraq -- the unparalleled looting and destruction, a lot of which was directly intentioned, designed by the security services to cover the tracks of the Iraq WMD program and their other programs as well," Kay said.

But Kay, who supported the war, said the Iraq Survey Group's conclusions did nothing to undercut his belief that Saddam needed to be removed from power.

He said Iraq was in violation of U.N. Resolution 1441, which mandated Saddam to disclose and destroy prohibited weapons.

He said inspectors have found hundreds of cases of Iraqi officials concealing from U.N. weapons inspectors evidence that placed Iraq in clear violation of the world body's resolutions.

He added that Iraq had become totally corrupt after 1998, when U.N. inspections ceased, improving the likelihood that banned weapons could wind up in the wrong hands.

During the debate over whether to invade Iraq, the Bush administration argued repeatedly that Iraq was violating U.N. resolutions requiring its disarmament after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The administration also dismissed findings of U.N. weapons inspectors, who returned shortly before the war and reported finding no banned weapons.

The Armed Services Committee's chairman, Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, noted that the survey group's work was not complete.

But Democrats have said Kay's findings show the Bush administration misled the country in arguing that war with Iraq was necessary.

The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, said administration officials, including President Bush, made "numerous vivid, unqualified statements about Iraq having in its possession weapons of mass destruction -- not programs, not program-related activities, not intentions."

"When lives are at stake and our military is to be placed in harm's way -- in other words, when we decide to go to war -- it is totally unacceptable to have intelligence that is this far off or to exaggerate or shape the intelligence for any purpose by anybody," Levin said.

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