Mueller Report – Duelfer Report | Charles Duelfer

Mueller Report – Duelfer Report

A few commentators have made some comparisons between the Mueller Report and report on Iraq WMD in 2004 which was dubbed the Duelfer Report.  There are a few similarities and many key differences.

Both were produced in a highly charged political environment.  The Mueller report affects the prospects for the Trump presidency (and some would suggest its legitimacy).  The Iraq WMD report came out in October 2004 just before the heated election contest between John Kerry and President George Bush–and in the midst of a war that was starting to look really ugly.   Both were subject to major political examination in Congress.  Both were issued in an environment where there was going to be enormous skepticism among the audience.  Both involved intelligence matters, and both were complicated,

But there were key differences.  The Duelfer Report did not assess the actions of US actors (intelligence community, political leaders, etc.).  It addressed the Saddam Hussein regime and its relation to WMD.  Others would investigate such questions as malfeasance on the part of the intelligence community or whether political leaders inappropriately pressured the Intelligence community.  (This task was ably done by the commission chaired by Senator Chuck Robb and Judge Laurence Silberman.)

The Iraq WMD investigation did not have the obligation to make legal judgments…it “only” had to establish facts.  The collection of data was in some ways similar to Mueller’s efforts, though gathering data largely from non-US citizens was categorically different.  Of course the environment was physically dangerous.  Four lives were lost and several were badly wounded.  We operated in a devastated country in midst of an insurgency.

I made some decisions concerning our work and the report of our work that contributed to the enduring credibility of the report and long term utility.  They may be useful in other circumstances.

First, it was clear to me that we had a unique opportunity to record for history the details of how the Saddam regime worked and why.  This was an opportunity that went beyond the relatively simple question asked by some, “Did Saddam have WMD or didn’t he?”   I defined the task more broadly, to record the relationship between the Saddam regime with WMD over time.  He had, and used, WMD at certain points, and at other points he did not.  Moreover, where was he going in the future.

To this end, we collected and reported a lot of data about the workings of the regime and its interactions domestically and internationally.  Moreover, we included as much raw data as possible.  This was going to be a document studied not just by current politicians in Washington, but by historians, and, Iraqis themselves who were intimately involved in the events.  I wanted to be sure they would not find factual problems.

Very early in the process, I determined that the report would be unclassified and all the included material would have to be declassified.  This was difficult but essential.  The US intelligence community had suffered a major blow to its credibility about Iraq WMD and if there was anything we held back, it would shake the confidence in our report.  And gathering the data had been expensive in lives and treasure.  I did not want the validity of the effort to be challenged.  (Note:  We did not have the serious constraint faced by Mueller concerning releasing grand jury data affecting American citizens.)

Another decision I made was to not have an executive summary.  In response to critical questions on this (especially from some Senators), I stated that it was a complicated picture and I believed that the truth would not fit in the equivalent of a bumper sticker.  I should also point out that no one else wrote a summary of the report as happened with the Mueller report with political consequences.

As it turned out the absence of an executive summary made testifying before Congress somewhat easier since members and staff who sought to bolster one of their own views or another would have to pluck their own segments out to support their own biases, but they could not attribute such conclusions to me.  And, while it remains to be seen it Mueller will testify before congress, this was never question for me.  It was inevitable.

I also decided that the report should be completed and released before the election.  This was important since if it were released afterwards, then all would assume that was for a political reason and that would taint the credibility of the overall report.  I did not want to do anything that would damage the credibility of the work produced by so many and at such a cost.

Finally I would emphasize that President Bush and his White House team supported all these decisions without complaint or criticism.



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