“It is big.”
That’s how Donald Rumsfeld described the percentage of “unknowns” about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program to Air Force General Richard Myers in a Secret September 9, 2002, memo.
The declassified memo – and accompanying eight-page Joint Chiefs of Staff report – makes clear that the Intelligence Community’s (IC) “knowledge of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program is based largely – perhaps 90% – on analysis of imprecise intelligence.” The report further spells out that the IC didn’t know the status of Iraq’s enrichment capabilities for its nuclear weapons program, that the knowledge of how and where Iraq was producing its biological weapons was “probably up to 90% incomplete”, and that the JCS seriously doubted that Iraq had the processes in place to build long range ballistic missiles – a clear refutation of arguments made by advocates for invading Iraq that Hussein was building long range missiles capable of hitting Israel.
Colbert cites declassified document in Rumsfeld interview.
The 2002 document – initially released to Rumsfeld in 2011 pursuant to a provision of the President’s Executive Order on Classification (which also allowed Rumsfeld to cut the line in front of FOIA requesters, including the National Security Archive, that had requested the same documents years earlier) and later released to Politico under the FOIA – was the star of Stephen Colbert’s recent Rumsfeld interview.1 Colbert, using the document and playing on Rumsfeld’s favorite turn of phrase, “known unknowns”, argues that the American public should have been made aware of the unknown-knowns, “the things that we know, and then we choose not to know them, or not let other people know we know.” In other words, that the public should not have been presented an air-tight case for invading Iraq when, as the JCS memo explicitly states, “Our assessments rely heavily on analytic assumptions and judgement rather than hard evidence.”