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Transcript: David Kay at Senate hearing

Former top U.S. weapons inspector David Kay addresses the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Former top U.S. weapons inspector David Kay addresses the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Wolf Blitzer talks with former weapons inspector David Kay on "Wolf Blitzer Reports" at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday.
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(CNN) -- Former top U.S. weapons inspector David Kay testified Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee about efforts to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Following is a transcript of Kay's opening remarks before committee members began questioning him.

KAY: As you know and we discussed, I do not have a written statement. This hearing came about very quickly. I do have a few preliminary comments, but I suspect you're more interested in asking questions, and I'll be happy to respond to those questions to the best of my ability.

I would like to open by saying that the talent, dedication and bravery of the staff of the [Iraq Survey Group] that was my privilege to direct is unparalleled and the country owes a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who have served over there and continue to serve doing that.

A great deal has been accomplished by the team, and I do think ... it important that it goes on and it is allowed to reach its full conclusion. In fact, I really believe it ought to be better resourced and totally focused on WMD; that that is important to do it.

But I also believe that it is time to begin the fundamental analysis of how we got here, what led us here and what we need to do in order to ensure that we are equipped with the best possible intelligence as we face these issues in the future.

Let me begin by saying, we were almost all wrong, and I certainly include myself here.

Sen. [Edward] Kennedy knows very directly. Senator Kennedy and I talked on several occasions prior to the war that my view was that the best evidence that I had seen was that Iraq indeed had weapons of mass destruction.

I would also point out that many governments that chose not to support this war -- certainly, the French president, [Jacques] Chirac, as I recall in April of last year, referred to Iraq's possession of WMD.

The Germans certainly -- the intelligence service believed that there were WMD.

It turns out that we were all wrong, probably in my judgment, and that is most disturbing.

We're also in a period in which we've had intelligence surprises in the proliferation area that go the other way. The case of Iran, a nuclear program that the Iranians admit was 18 years on, that we underestimated. And, in fact, we didn't discover it. It was discovered by a group of Iranian dissidents outside the country who pointed the international community at the location.

The Libyan program recently discovered was far more extensive than was assessed prior to that.

There's a long record here of being wrong. There's a good reason for it. There are probably multiple reasons. Certainly proliferation is a hard thing to track, particularly in countries that deny easy and free access and don't have free and open societies.

In my judgment, based on the work that has been done to this point of the Iraq Survey Group, and in fact, that I reported to you in October, Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of [U.N.] Resolution 1441.

Resolution 1441 required that Iraq report all of its activities -- one last chance to come clean about what it had.

We have discovered hundreds of cases, based on both documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis, of activities that were prohibited under the initial U.N. Resolution 687 and that should have been reported under 1441, with Iraqi testimony that not only did they not tell the U.N. about this, they were instructed not to do it and they hid material.

I think the aim -- and certainly the aim of what I've tried to do since leaving -- is not political and certainly not a witch hunt at individuals. It's to try to direct our attention at what I believe is a fundamental fault analysis that we must now examine.

And let me take one of the explanations most commonly given: Analysts were pressured to reach conclusions that would fit the political agenda of one or another administration. I deeply think that is a wrong explanation.

As leader of the effort of the Iraqi Survey Group, I spent most of my days not out in the field leading inspections. It's typically what you do at that level. I was trying to motivate, direct, find strategies.

In the course of doing that, I had innumerable analysts who came to me in apology that the world that we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed and that they had estimated. Reality on the ground differed in advance.

And never -- not in a single case -- was the explanation, "I was pressured to do this." The explanation was very often, "The limited data we had led one to reasonably conclude this. I now see that there's another explanation for it."

And each case was different, but the conversations were sufficiently in depth and our relationship was sufficiently frank that I'm convinced that, at least to the analysts I dealt with, I did not come across a single one that felt it had been, in the military term, "inappropriate command influence" that led them to take that position.

It was not that. It was the honest difficulty based on the intelligence that had -- the information that had been collected that led the analysts to that conclusion.

And you know, almost in a perverse way, I wish it had been undue influence because we know how to correct that.

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. And that's what I call fundamental fault analysis.

And like I say, I think we've got other cases other than Iraq. I do not think the problem of global proliferation of weapons technology of mass destruction is going to go away, and that's why I think it is an urgent issue.

And let me really wrap up here with just a brief summary of what I think we are now facing in Iraq. I regret to say that I think at the end of the work of the [Iraq Survey Group] there's still going to be an unresolvable ambiguity about what happened.

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 intentional, designed by the security services to cover the tracks of the Iraq WMD program and their other programs as well, a lot of which was what we simply called Ali Baba looting. "It had been the regime's. The regime is gone. I'm going to go take the gold toilet fixtures and everything else imaginable."

I've seen looting around the world and thought I knew the best looters in the world. The Iraqis excel at that.

The result is -- document destruction -- we're really not going to be able to prove beyond a truth the negatives and some of the positive conclusions that we're going to come to. There will be always unresolved ambiguity here.

But I do think the survey group -- and I think Charlie Duelfer is a great leader. I have the utmost confidence in Charles. I think you will get as full an answer as you can possibly get.

And let me just conclude by my own personal tribute, both to the president and to [CIA Director] George Tenet, for having the courage to select me to do this, and my successor, Charlie Duelfer, as well.

Both of us are known for probably at times regrettable streak of independence. I came not from within the administration, and it was clear and clear in our discussions and no one asked otherwise that I would lead this the way I thought best and I would speak the truth as we found it. I have had absolutely no pressure prior, during the course of the work at the [Iraq Survey Group], or after I left to do anything otherwise.

I think that shows a level of maturity and understanding that I think bodes well for getting to the bottom of this. But it is really up to you and your staff, on behalf of the American people, to take on that challenge. It's not something that anyone from the outside can do. So I look forward to these hearings and other hearings at how you will get to the conclusions.

I do believe we have to understand why reality turned out to be different than expectations and estimates. But you have more public service -- certainly many of you -- than I have ever had, and you recognize that this is not unusual.

I told Sen. [John] Warner [chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee] earlier that I've been drawn back as a result of recent film of reminding me of something. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, the combined estimate was unanimity in the intelligence service that there were no Soviet warheads in Cuba at the time of the missile crisis.

Fortunately, President Kennedy and [then-Attorney General] Robert Kennedy disagreed with the estimate and chose a course of action less ambitious and aggressive than recommended by their advisers.

But the most important thing about that story, which is not often told, is that as a result after the Cuban missile crisis, immediate steps were taken to correct our inability to collect on the movement of nuclear material out of the Soviet Union to other places.

So that by the end of the Johnson administration, the intelligence community had a capability to do what it had not been able to do at the time of the Cuban missile crisis.

I think you face a similar responsibility in ensuring that the community is able to do a better job in the future than it has done in the past.

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