Chris Wallace Eviscerates Sen. Rockefeller
SEN. ROCKEFELLER (October 10, 2002): "I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat, but I also believe that after September 11th, that question is increasingly outdated."
WALLACE: Now, the President never said that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat. As you saw, you did say that. If anyone hyped the intelligence, isn't it Jay Rockefeller?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No. The – I mean, this question is asked a thousand times and I'll be happy to answer it a thousand times. I took a trip by myself in January of 2002 to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and I told each of the heads of state that it was my view that George Bush had already made up his mind to go to war against Iraq – that that was a predetermined set course which had taken shape shortly after 9/11. Now, the intelligence that they had and the intelligence that we had were probably different. We didn't get the Presidential Daily Briefs. We got only a finished product, a finished product, a consensual view of the intelligence community, which does not allow for agencies like in the case of the aluminum tubes, the Department of Energy said these aren't thick enough to handle nuclear power. They left that out and went ahead with they have aluminum tubes and they're going to develop nuclear power.
WALLACE: Senator, you're quite right. You didn't get the Presidential Daily Brief or the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief. You got the National Intelligence Estimate. But the Silberman Commission, a Presidential commission that looked into this, did get copies of those briefs, and they say that they were, if anything, even more alarmist, even less nuanced than the intelligence you saw, and yet you, not the President, said that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: The Silberman Commission was absolutely prohibited by the President in his charge to them – he appointed them – from ever looking at the use of intelligence, whether it was misused, whether it was massaged to influence the American people to go along with a decision which he had long ago already decided to make.
WALLACE: But didn't they come to that conclusion which I just stated, that the Presidential Daily Brief was in fact more alarmist and less nuanced than the intelligence you saw?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: I don't know, because I never get to see, nor does Pat, the Presidential Daily Brief. All I know is that we don't get the intelligence that they do. We are called the Senate Intelligence Committee. We get a lot more than the rest of the Senate, but it was incomplete as to what the President gets, and it was obviously entirely wrong, which raises the question, why was it wrong?
WALLACE: Senator Rockefeller, I want to play another clip from your 2002 speech authorizing the use of force, this time specifically on the question of Saddam's nuclear program. Here it is.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER (October 10, 2002): "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons. And will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years and he could have it earlier."
WALLACE: Now, by that point, Senator, you had read the National Intelligence Estimate, correct?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: In fact, there were only six people in the Senate who did, and I was one of them. I'm sure Pat was another.
WALLACE: Okay, but you had read that, and now we've read a declassified…
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: But Chris, let's a...
WALLACE: Can I just ask my question sir, and then you can answer as you choose. That report indicated there was an agreement – a disagreement among analysts about the nuclear program. The State Department had a lot more doubts than the CIA did about whether he was pursuing a nuclear program. You never mentioned those doubts. You came to the same conclusion the President did.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Because that – first of all, that National Intelligence Estimate was not called for by the Administration. It was called for by former Senator Bob Graham, Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Dick Durbin. We didn't receive it until just a couple of days before we voted. Then we had to go read it and compare it to everything else that we thought we'd learned about intelligence, and I did make that statement. And I did make that vote. But, Chris, the important thing is that when I started looking at the weapons of mass destruction intelligence along with Pat Roberts, I went down to the floor, and I said I made a mistake. I would have never voted yes if I knew what I know today.
WALLACE: But a lot of people – that's not the point of the investigation, Senator.
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Chris, there's always the same conversation. You know it was not the Congress that sent 135,000 or 150,000 troops.
WALLACE: But you voted, sir, and aren't you responsible for your vote?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No.
WALLACE: You're not?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No. I'm responsible for my vote, but I'd appreciate it if you'd get serious about this subject, with all due respect. We authorized him to continue working with the United Nations, and then if that failed, authorized him to use force to enforce the sanctions. We did not send 150,000 troops or 135,000 troops. It was his decision made probably two days after 9/11 that he was going to invade Iraq. That we did not have a part of, and, yes, we had bad intelligence, and when we learned about it, I went down to the floor and said I would never have voted for this thing.
WALLACE: My only point sir, and I am trying to be serious about it, is as I understand Phase Two, the question is based on the intelligence you had, what were the statements you made? You had the National Intelligence Estimate which expressed doubts about Saddam's nuclear program, and yet you said he had a nuclear program. The President did the same thing.