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David Kay: Exclusive interview

NBC's Tom Brokaw speaks with David Kay, the outgoing top U.S. inspector of weapons of mass destruction, who now believes Saddam Hussein had no such arms.

David Kay, who resigned last week as the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, now says he didn't find stockpiles of WMD — or evidence of a nuclear program well under way in Saddam Hussein's Iraq — and he blames it on a greatly flawed intelligence system and analysis.

When I met Dr. Kay in Baghdad last summer he showed me the bales of documents he was confident would lead to the weapons. But instead, he says, Iraqi scientists told him Saddam's WMD program was in chaos.

David Kay: They describe in Iraq that was really spinning into a vortex of corruption from the very top in which people were lying to Saddam, lying to each other for money; the graft and how much you could get out of the system rather than how much you could produce was a dominant issue. 

Tom Brokaw: You found evidence of programs that were in place but no weapons.

DK: There were a lot of small activities. Now, in the missile field it’s quite different. There were actually large, purposeful programs going on in that area. But in chemical, biological and nuke, it was rudimentary.

TB: David, as you know the vice president of the United States and Secretary of State Powell say, “We still don’t know the end result. We could still find these weapons.”

DK: Well, Tom, let me explain how we came — how I came to a different conclusion.  If there weren’t stockpiles of weapons, there must have been a production process which required plants, required people and would have produced documentation. But we have seen nothing that would indicate large-scale production.

TB: And no scientist who testified to that.

DK: No scientist, no documentation nor physical evidence of the production plants.

TB: Intelligence report says ... "Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with range in excess of U.N. restrictions.  If left unchecked it probably will have a nuclear weapon within this decade."

DK: Well, I think it’s got elements that we have certainly seen are true. The area that it’s probably more seriously wrong in is in the nuclear area.

TB: But as you know, the vice president and, to a lesser degree, the president of the United States, raised the nuclear threat as a reason that the United States had to go to war against Iraq.

DK: I think the weight of the evidence — was not great.

TB: David, as you know, a lot of the president’s political critics are going to say, “This is clear evidence that he lied to the American people.”

DK: Well, Tom, if we do that, I think we’re really hurting ourselves. Clearly, the intelligence that we went to war on was inaccurate, wrong.  We need to understand why that was.  I think if anyone was abused by the intelligence it was the president of the United States rather than the other way around.

TB: The president described Iraq as a gathering threat — a gathering danger.  Was that an accurate description?

DK: I think that’s a very accurate description.

TB: But an imminent threat to the United States?

DK: Tom, an imminent threat is a political judgment. It’s not a technical judgment. I think Baghdad was actually becoming more dangerous in the last two years than even we realized.  Saddam was not controlling the society any longer. In the marketplace of terrorism and of WMD, Iraq well could have been that supplier if the war had not intervened.

TB: But as you know, the administration and its supporters, not just suggest, but insist that there was a real connection between Saddam Hussein and terrorist organizations that would be a threat to the United States.

DK: Look, I found no real connection between WMD and terrorists.  What we did find, and as others are investigating it, we found a lot of terrorist groups and individuals that passed through Iraq.

TB: There has been recently a report given to the Pentagon that there’s a possibility, a strong possibility of civil war breaking out in Iraq.

DK: I think it’s going to be very, very difficult in this political transition to avoid some degree of internal conflict. And it certainly could spin out of control to civil war.

TB: Is this déjà vu all over again?  It looks very much like what the British went through when they went in there in 1918 and then finally gave up in the early 1930s.

DK: Well, Tom, there are times that I thought this was déjà vu all over again not only with regard to that but where I started out my life, which was in the Vietnam conflict and things. It is going to require a great deal of wisdom and perseverance to avoid that occurring.