KWAME HOLMAN: The House Intelligence Committee normally does its work in private, discussing sensitive national security information behind locked doors in a room with no windows. Today however, was the first in a series of open, public hearings that Republican Chairman Porter Goss and ranking Democrat Jane Harman plan to hold to examine the prewar intelligence on Iraq, how it was gathered, and how it justified military action.
REP. JANE HARMAN: It is rare when questions like these are asked by millions of Americans. They are asking and we the House Intelligence Committee owe them answers as part of our oversight responsibility.
KWAME HOLMAN: The committee first heard the perspectives of two directors of Central Intelligence from the 1990s-- James Woolsey, and John Deutsch, who believes the failure so far to find Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is a serious problem.
JOHN DEUTCH, Former Director, CIA: It is an intelligence failure in my judgment of massive proportions. It means our leaders and the American public based its support for the most serious foreign policy judgments, the decision to go to war on an incorrect intelligence judgment. The next time military intervention is judged necessary to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction; for example in North Korea there will be skepticism about the quality of our intelligence. When the United States undertakes military intervention with or without the United Nations resolution, the policy decision must be based in large part on intelligence which we are confident is accurate.
KWAME HOLMAN: James Woolsey preceded Deutsch at the CIA.
JAMES WOOLSEY: I think that the most important change the intelligence community can undertake, with respect to with respect to intelligence with weapons of mass destruction and many other issues in this part of the world, I'm speaking the Middle East principally, is to try to resist the heritage and culture of not listening to volunteers and not listening to those who are walk-ins and not listening to those who are other than recruited assets.The intelligence community and I believe the Department of State have been too reluctant across two administrations not one -- have been too reluctant to work with the Iraqi resistance and with volunteers.
If we had gone into Iraq in a sense like the cavalry going into Apache country with many, many hundreds of Apache scouts or the equivalent thereof in Iraq, we would have I think done a lot better job of distinguishing the Bader brigade people from the others, of distinguishing Saddam supporters from others by local accents, by dress,. This is not the kind of thing that it's going to help owe have French or German or any other people in Iraq with us on. This is something we need Iraqis for this. That has been the principle intelligence failing leading up to the war, not many of the issues that are being discussed publicly.
KWAME HOLMAN: Chairman Goss interrupted to make clear it was not the purpose of these hearings to find fault.
REP. PORTER GOSS: None of remarks we're talking about, nor any of history, and this certainly carries over to the 9/11 review, it's not about blame this is about better protecting the United States of America in the world as it is today.
SPOKESMAN: Mr. Chairman, I'm happy to hear that and I hope it's universally seen that way.
REP. PORTER GOSS: I'm afraid it's not but --.
SPOKESMAN: We're together on that.
KWAME HOLMAN: Jane Harman said she had concerns over just who is providing the president with intelligence information.
REP. JANE HARMAN: There is swirling around Washington the view that the C.I.A. And regular intelligence community is not what is being listened to by this White House. It is a rogue operation operating out of the Defense Department, the Office of Special Plans, and there is a cell there with a lot of outside consultants who are producing intelligence insulated from adequate collegial vetting and comment from the regular intelligence community.
JAMES WOOLSEY: If the Defense Department, for that matter, the State Department, for that matter the treasury feels that they -- there is inadequate attention being paid to volunteered information, it does seem to me entirely appropriate from someone from INR and state for the department of defense or the secretary of treasury's office on intelligence to listen to what people volunteers whether they are part of Iraqi resistance or someone else. I think where the line would be crossed would be if they went out and started covertly running assets or managing spies or something of that effect.
KWAME HOLMAN: Among the second- panel witnesses was Robert Baer, an author and former CIA official. He argued the agency needs to be more flexible to improve its counter- intelligence abilities.
ROBERT BAER: We have to bring on marginal people. We have to bring in people that cannot meet the standards of a top secret security clearance which are very high and very stringent. We did it every three years. We need to start infiltrating, for instance, the illegal oil deals in Iraq. With 20/20 hindsight what I would have done to get inside Uday and Qusay's operation is taken an officer, put him in that circle by buying illegal Iraqi oil, starting to supply that regime with things they need which is anything from cigars to surface to air missiles simply to figure out what the pressures are. We have to understand the pressures the case officers are under and we have to get them thinking out of the box and willing to take risks.
KWAME HOLMAN: The committee will continue its hearings in the fall, and expects to invite current administration officials to testify.