- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The man who led the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq told a Senate panel yesterday that reforming the nation’s intelligence agencies would not fix their flaws unless those responsible for failure were made personally accountable.

“Intelligence reform without accountability will not achieve the objective we all share — that is avoiding the clearly avoidable tragedy of September 11 and the equally avoidable tragedy of a botched assessment of Iraq’s [weapons] capabilities,” David Kay told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The committee held a rare August recess hearing to consider the September 11 commission’s recommendations for a radical restructuring of the 15 U.S. intelligence agencies, especially the appointment of an intelligence chief with authority to manage the nation’s spies.

Mr. Kay told the panel that the U.S. intelligence system was in a crisis “so grave that it weakens an essential underpinning of both our diplomatic and our national military security capabilities, and their ability to support U.S. national interests.”

But Mr. Kay said the roots of the crisis did not lie exclusively in structural problems. The assessments of Iraqi programs for weapons of mass destruction in particular were “an overwhelming systemic failure of the Central Intelligence Agency,” he said.

“Until this is taken on board,” he said, “and people and organizations are held responsible for this failure, I have a real difficulty in seeing how a national intelligence director can correct these failings.”

In February, Mr. Kay said eight months of on-the-ground surveys in Iraq had led him to believe that Saddam Hussein had not possessed weapons of mass destruction since the 1990s.

His report touched off a barrage of charges from Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates that President Bush took the country to war on a false pretense, although Mr. Kay said there was no political pressure to skew intelligence and that he himself had thought before the war that Saddam had such weapons. His report also said Baghdad was maintaining a skeletal program that could produce weapons of mass destruction quickly if the United Nations lifted its sanctions.

He said the most frustrating moment of his hunt for stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was when he learned that the nuclear analysts were to get larger performance bonuses than the chemical-biological analysts, even though the nuclear conclusion — that Iraq had reconstituted its atomic weapons program — was even more drastically wrong.

“There is nothing in that record that … deserves a performance bonus. Nor in fact, quite frankly, was there much that deserved a performance bonus in the chemical and biological area.

“Instead of holding people responsible,” he said, “we reward them for failure.”

The final report of the September 11 panel — formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States — has been criticized by relatives of the victims and others because it does not allocate responsibility to specific individuals, instead focusing on systemic problems, such as the absence of a single leader for the nation’s intelligence system.

Commission members have said repeatedly that there is plenty of blame to go around, and that their job was to find out what had gone wrong, rather than point fingers.

But Mr. Kay came down firmly against such an approach yesterday.

He said the reform process would fail to address the real problems, “particularly if we continue to say ‘Everyone is at fault, therefore no one can be held responsible.’”

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