|Robert Gates, Saddam's Man in Washington
Sen. Tom Harkin's remarks on the floor of the Senate regarding Robert Gates' nomination to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, November 7, 1991.
From the Congressional Record
Mr. President, at the outset of the confirmation hearings, I had serious reservations about the nominee. The confirmation hearings only raised more questions and greater doubts. Questions and doubts about Mr. Gates' past activities, managerial style, judgment, lapses in memory and analytical abilities. Questions and doubts about his role in the Iran-Contra Affair and in providing military intelligence to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war; and questions and doubts about whether he will be able to remove the ideological blinders reflected in his writings and speeches or whether Mr. Gates is so rooted in the past, that he will not be able to lead the Agency into the post-cold war era. Because of these concerns, I have concluded that Mr. Gates is not the right person for the important job of overseeing our intelligence operations in this New World.
Mr. President, Robert Gates is a career Soviet analyst and former Deputy Director of the CIA who was wrong about what CIA analyst Harold Ford described as `the central analytic target of the past few years: the probable fortunes of the USSR and the Soviet European bloc.' And I believe that the committee report points out one possible reason why the CIA failed to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to testimony, Mr. Gates was busy pursuing hypotheses and making unsubstantiated arguments attempting to show Soviet expansion in the Third World, instead of looking for or paying attention to facts that pointed in the opposite direction. Why? Why, as Mentor Moynihan has pointed out, was the CIA able to tell Presidents everything about the Soviet Union except the fact that it was falling apart?
Mr. Gates was also wrong about the Soviet threat to Iran in 1985. The 1985 Special National Intelligence Estimate on Iran stressed possible Soviet inroads into Iran. Gates admits that the analysis was an anomaly. It was a clear departure from previous analyses and almost immediately proven wrong by subsequent events. Gates was involved in preparing that analysis. According to Hal Ford, whose testimony the nominee never refuted, Gates leaned heavily on the Iran Estimate, in effect, `insisting on his own views and discouraging dissent.' What was the result? The 1985 estimate was skewed and contributed to the biggest foreign policy debacle of the Reagan administration, the sale of arms to Iran.
Mr. President, Graham Fuller, the CIA's National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, suggested that the 1985 SNIE estimate was based on intuition in the absence of hard evidence. I agree there is nothing wrong with preparing worse case scenarios or using `intuition' as opposed to hard evidence in the preparation of analysis, provided it is made clear to policymakers that the finished analysis is based on intuition and not hard evidence. It is the job of the CIA to sort out fact from fiction, not convert one into the other.
Mr. President, I also have doubts and questions about Mr. Gates' role in the secret intelligence sharing operation with Iraq. Robert Gates served as assistant to the Director of the CIA in 1981 and as Deputy Director for Intelligence for 1982 to 1986. In that capacity he helped develop options in dealing with the Iran-Iraq war, which eventually involved into a secret intelligence liaison relationship with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Gates was in charge of the directorate that prepared the intelligence information that was passed on to Iraq. He testified that he was also an active participant in the operation during 1986. The secret intelligence sharing operation with Iraq was not only a highly questionable and possibly illegal operation, but also may have jeopardized American lives and our national interests. The photo reconnaissance, highly sensitive electronic eavesdropping and narrative texts provided to Saddam, may not only have helped him in Iraq's war against Iran but also in the recent gulf war. Saddam Hussein may have discovered the value of underground land lines as opposed to radio communications after he was give our intelligence information. That made it more difficult for the allied coalition to get quick and accurate intelligence during the gulf war. Further, after
the Persian Gulf war, our intelligence community was surprised at the extent of Iraq's nuclear program. One reason Saddam may have hidden his nuclear program so effectively from detection was because of his knowledge of our satellite photos. What also concerns me about that operation is that we spend millions of dollars keeping secrets from the Soviets and then we give it to Saddam who sells them to the Soviets. In short, the coddling of Saddam was a mistake of the first order.
Mr. President, I've stated a very simple case for rejecting the nomination of Robert Gates to be Director of the CIA. The fact that he was wrong on major issues which in some instances led to foreign policy debacles. I haven't addressed concerns about the allegations of his politicization of intelligence analysis, his apparently poor managerial style or still unanswered questions about his role in the Iran-Contra affair. Regarding the Iran-Contra affair, I should mention that I was quite disturbed to hear testimony that portrayed Robert Gates as someone concerned about Agency's role and not sufficiently concerned about pursuing possible illegal Government activities. In his opening statement before the Intelligence Committee, Mr. Gates said that he should have taken more seriously `the possibility of impropriety or possible wrongdoing in the Government and pursued this possibility more aggressively.' I agree.
I should also mention, Mr. President, that aside from Mr. Gates' poor judgment in not pursuing the possibility of Government wrongdoing more aggressively, I still find it incredible that the Deputy Director of CIA was not aware of that major covert operation. How could such a high ranking official not know about the CIA's efforts to support the Contras? Did he purposely avoid trying to find out what was happening? The testimony seemed to indicate he did. Gates' selective lapses in recall about the affair by a man with a photographic memory raises serious doubts.
The U.S. Congress and the American people depend on accurate and reliable intelligence information. Our expenditures on defense and other areas are often decided on the basis of that information. We cannot afford to waste billion of dollars in the future. After reviewing the record, I do not believe that the Central Intelligence Agency under the directorship of Robert Gates will provide the clear intelligence assessments necessary for Congress to make decisions to deal with the future threats confronting our nation.
Mr. President, I do not believe that Robert Gates is the right person to lead the CIA at this time. The cold war is over and it's time for some of the old warriors to rest. Now we must take a fresh new look at the world, think new thoughts and reassess the future role of the intelligence community. I urge my colleagues to vote against Robert Gates.