|Assad's fall could solve Iraqi weapons mystery|
|If Syria's regime falls, the U.S. will be in a better position to answer one of the lingering questions from the long Iraq War: Did Storied ship weapons of mass destruction components to Syria before the 2003 American-led invasion?|
An opposition leader tells The Washington Times that a new, secular democracy in Syria would allow outside inspectors to survey and ensure destruction of what is believed to be one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the Middle East.
Western and Israeli intelligence suspect that Bashir al-Assad's regime in Syria also owns weaponized nerve agents.
Spy satellites tracked a large number of truck convoys moving from Iraq to Syria in the weeks before the 2003 invasion, raising suspicions that some carried weapons of mass destruction.
The invading Americans never found stocks of such weapons in Iraq, despite two years of searching by the Iraq Survey Group, the joint Pentagon-CIA organization formed to hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"[The Iraq Survey Group] was unable to complete its investigation and is unable to rule out the possibility that [weapons of mass destruction were] evacuated to Syria before the war," he said.
"Whether Syria received military items from Iraq for safekeeping or other reasons has yet to be determined," Mr. Duelfer said. "There was evidence of a discussion of possible ... collaboration initiated by a Syrian security officer, and [the Iraq Survey Group] received information about movement of material out of Iraq, including the possibility that [weapons of mass destruction were] involved. In the judgment of the working group, these reports were sufficiently credible to merit further investigation."
|Home Front: Politix|
|Pelosi was nuts to visit with Assad|
|By Claudia Rosett|
In visiting Syria this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi no doubt meant well. She wants dialogue. As a woman, mother, and now the third-highest-ranking elected official in American politics, she has achieved a great deal in life by talking with people. On this trip she made a point of showing how easy it is to interact with Syrians, with an itinerary that included a visit to a souk in Damascus - where she was photographed holding out her hand while a cheerful vendor gave her some nuts.
Unfortunately, that photo-op sums up the best that can be said about Pelosi's trip: Nuts. Having done her shopping, Pelosi went on, against the express wishes of the White House, to talk with President Bashar Assad. Perched on pillowed armchairs, chatting away, they provided yet another photo-op - a tableau implying that Assad is no monster, but in many ways a reasonable fellow, just like the rest of us. Pelosi emerged to announce that she had expressed her concerns on various fronts and that Assad is now willing to hold peace talks with Israel.
This is not just nutty politics; it is dangerous. For Pelosi, this may count as interaction. But for Assad's regime in Syria, this amounts to chumps on pilgrimage. Damascus is infested by a dynastic tyranny in which "dialogue" serves chiefly as cover for duplicity and terror. These traits are not simply regrettable habits that Assad might be charmed out of. They are big business and prime instruments of power.
The long litany of Syrian depredations includes the long and brutal occupation of Lebanon, Syrian involvement in the brazen car-bombing assassination two years ago of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al- Hariri, and likely Syrian involvement in the continuing series of murders of Lebanese reformers. Syria has been a highway for Hezbollah terrorists trucking weapons from Iran into Lebanon, leading to the war launched by Hezbollah last summer against Israel. Syria provides safety and support for the terrorists of Hamas. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Syria has become a conduit of terrorists inflicting mayhem and murder in Iraq.
The real trademarks of Assad's regime are neither the mosques nor the souks (where vendors, when not posing for photo-ops, will on occasion fearfully confide their unhappiness over Assad's repressive policies). The more telling places - which dignitaries such as Pelosi do not get to visit - are institutions such as Syria's Tadmur Prison, a place that Amnesty International has described as "synonymous with brutality, despair and dehumanization." Among the inmates who land there are political dissidents who have defied a regime that for Assad is effectively a lifetime family business.
As with any severely repressive regime, details are hard to come by. The best window we have had came via the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, which brought to light a trove of secret documents showing the extent to which Syria's regime was involved in dirty arms deals and illicit finance. The CIA's chief weapons inspector, Charles Duelfer, in some much-overlooked sections of his famous 2004 report described "high-ranking Syrian government officials" - including members of the Assad clan - heading some of the main Syrian trading companies that helped Saddam clandestinely order military equipment from places such as Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, and negotiate for missiles from North Korea. These, not that smiling nut vendor in the souk, are the Syrians who call the shots.
Dignifying Assad with visits, chats and photo-ops is bad policy, whether it comes from America's top Democrat, from Republican congressmen, or from the White House itself. Assad runs the kind of government for which the phrase "regime change" was invented - and however unfashionable that phrase has now become, it is still the only true path to peace in Damascus.
|Home Front: WoT|
|The Misuses of Intelligence|
|By Michael Barone|
Last week, we had a couple of object lessons in how to use -- or misuse -- foreign intelligence.
The first emerges from reports by U.S. military authorities in Iraq that weapons have been used there against American forces which seem highly likely to have come from Iran. To many of us, these reports seem unremarkable. There is every reason to believe that the mullah regime in Iran wishes us ill, and the border between Iraq and Iran, much of it highly mountainous, is surely porous. Yet from many critics of the administration emanate cries that these reports are not to be given credence -- they are just a ploy to justify military action against Iran.
To be sure, it appears that our military has been given orders to take action against Iranian agents in Iraq and that those orders have been followed. One wonders why such orders weren't given long ago. And there is certainly a case to be made -- I'd make it myself -- against a land war in Iran. But why should the reports be treated with suspicion?
The mullah regime has been making war against the United States since 1979. It committed an act of war against us by imprisoning our diplomats for 444 days. It sponsored Hezbollah, whose suicide bomber killed 240 Marines in Lebanon in 1983. It was behind the attack on the U.S. barracks in Khobar Towers in 1996. It calls the United States the Great Satan, and its current president has called for the eradication of the United States and Israel. The New York Times laments that America is "bullying" Iran. Actually, the mullah regime has been bullying the United States for 28 years.
So why the suspicion? The answer seems to be that because intelligence erred in its judgment that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction it could be erring here, too: All intelligence that could be used to justify military action is inherently dubious.
But the conclusion of our intelligence community -- and that of every other nation with serious intelligence capacity -- that Saddam had WMD was eminently justifiable. Saddam had possessed and used WMD in the past; he had resisted and evaded WMD inspections; and, as we have learned from Charles Duelfer, he retained the capacity to produce WMD in the future.
We found in 1991 that his nuclear program was further along than our intelligence agencies thought. No responsible American leader could have given Saddam the presumption of innocence and assumed he had no WMD until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. George W. Bush didn't. Neither did Bill Clinton.
The critics seem to be assuming that we can somehow obtain intelligence that is 100 percent accurate. But that is not possible in the real world. Intelligence tries to get information that regimes are making great effort to conceal -- evil regimes, in the case of Saddam and the mullahs. Our leaders must make decisions based on incomplete and highly imperfect information. And that information can remain imperfect for a long time. We still don't know what Saddam did with the WMD he once had and never accounted for.
The second object lesson was the Defense Department Inspector General's report accusing former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith of "inappropriate" behavior in presenting a briefing critical of intelligence community consensus.
The IG conceded that Feith's briefing was legal and authorized by his superiors, and did not criticize them for authorizing it. But it was somehow "inappropriate" for Feith to question the conclusion that there was no significant cooperation between Saddam's regime and al-Qaida.
What Feith did was to point to the intelligence community's own evidence of such cooperation and to question the assumption made by analysts that there could be no cooperation between Sunnis and Shiites. As we now know, such cooperation is very common. If your job is to protect the United States, you cannot assume it can't happen. Britain and France paid a high price for assuming that Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union would never cooperate.
Again we encounter the idea that intelligence agencies' conclusions should be regarded as Holy Writ, not to be questioned or analyzed critically by high government officials -- that there can be an intelligence product that is 100 percent accurate, and that every intelligence community conclusion must be treated as if it is.
The Bush critics' position is that we must believe without reservation or criticism any intelligence that can be used to argue against military action and that we should never believe any intelligence, however plausible, that can be used to argue for it. That's not very intelligent.
|Hunt for Saddam's $57bn|
|THE hunt for Saddam's missing billions was stepped up yesterday amid speculation he amassed a $57 billion fortune during his 30-year reign. Much is said to be invested through dummy corporations in Switzerland, Japan and Germany and some is hidden as cash and diamonds in numbered bank accounts in Europe and the Middle East. But Iraqi and US investigators, led by the FBI, US Treasury agents and State Department accountants, have been unable to identify the fake companies or the numbered accounts.|
After a brief period of co-operation when he was first captured, the dictator refused to help further. In a report submitted to the CIA in 2005, former UN arms inspector Charles Duelfer estimated that Saddam had amassed more than $15 billion "through illicit means" between 1990, when UN sanctions were imposed, and 2003.
But Iyad Allawi, who was interim prime minister of Iraq in the aftermath of the allied invasion, said the figure was far higher. He said information suggested Saddam had salted away an astonishing $57 billion through a network of bank accounts around the world.
$5.5 billion came from an illegal oil-for-trade deal he signed with Syria between 2000 and 2003.
Investigators also want to interview two of Saddam's three daughters, Raghad, 39, and Rana, 37, who both live in Jordan. Raghad, known as "Little Saddam" because she shares her father's temper, has been accused by the new Iraqi Government of using some of the cash to help finance the terrorist insurgency.
Investigators also want to interview at least two of Saddam's three wives. One is Samira Shahbandar, who was rumoured to be his favourite wife. The other is Nidal al-Hamdani, the general manager of the Solar Energy Research Centre in the Council of Scientific Research, whose husband was also persuaded that divorce was better than death.
|So There WERE WMD's|
|US-led coalition forces in Iraq have found some 500 chemical weapons since the March 2003 invasion, Republican lawmakers said, citing an intelligence report. "Since 2003, Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent," said an overview of the report unveiled by Senator Rick Santorum and Peter Hoekstra, head of the intelligence committee of the House of Representatives.|
"Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq's pre-Gulf war chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf war chemical munitions are assessed to still exist," it says.
The lawmakers cited the report as validation of the US rationale for the war, and stressed the ongoing danger they pose.
"This is an incredibly -- in my mind -- significant finding. The idea that, as my colleagues have repeatedly said in this debate on the other side of the aisle, that there are no weapons of mass destruction, is in fact false," Santorum said.
A Pentagon official who confirmed the findings said that all the weapons were pre-1991 vintage munitions "in such a degraded state they couldn't be used for what they are designed for." The official, who asked not to be identified, said most were 155 millimeter artillery projectiles with mustard gas or sarin of varying degrees of potency.
"We're destroying them where we find them in the normal manner," the official said. In 2004, the US army said it had found a shell containing sarin gas and another shell containing mustard gas, and a Pentagon official said at the time the discovery showed there were likely more. The intelligence overview published Wednesday stressed that the pre-Gulf War Iraqi chemical weapons could be sold on the black market.
"Use of these weapons by terrorists or insurgent groups would have implications for coalition forces in Iraq. The possibility of use outside Iraq cannot be ruled out," it said.
Santorum said the two-month-old report was prepared by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a military intelligence agency that started looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when the Iraq Survey Group stopped doing so in late 2004.
Last year the head of Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, said that insurgents in Iraq had already used old chemical weapons in their attacks. Nevertheless, "the impression that the Iraqi Survey Group left with the American people was they didn't find anything," Hoekstra said.
"But this says: Weapons have been discovered; more weapons exist. And they state that Iraq was not a WMD-free zone, that there are continuing threats from the materials that are or may still be in Iraq," he said.
Asked just how dangerous the weapons are, Hoekstra said: "One or two of these shells, the materials inside of these, transferred outside of the country, can be very, very deadly."
The report said that the purity of the chemical agents -- and thus their potency -- depends on "many factors, including the manufacturing process, potential additives, and environmental storage conditions."
"While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal," it said.
Reporters questioned the lawmakers as to why the Bush administration had not played up the report to boost their case for continued warfare in Iraq.
"The administration has been very clear that they want to look forward," Santorum said. "They felt it was not their role to go back and fight previous discussions."
Fear that Saddam Hussein might use his alleged arsenal of chemical and biological weapons was a reason US officials gave for launching the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
|Tapes reveal Sammy's WMD ambitions|
|Audiotapes of Saddam Hussein and his aides underscore the Bush administration's argument that Baghdad was determined to rebuild its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction once the international community had tired of inspections and left the Iraqi dictator alone.|
In addition to the captured tapes, U.S. officials are analyzing thousands of pages of newly translated Iraqi documents that tell of Saddam seeking uranium from Africa in the mid-1990s.
The documents also speak of burying prohibited missiles, according to a government official familiar with the declassification process.
But it is not clear whether Baghdad did what the documents indicate, said the U.S. official, who asked not to be named.
"The factories are present," an Iraqi aide tells Saddam on one of the tapes, made by the dictator in the mid-1990s while U.N. weapons inspectors were searching for Baghdad's remaining stocks of weapons of mass destruction.
"The factories remain, in the mind they remain. Our spirit is with us, based solely on the time period," the aide says, according to the documents. "And [inspectors] take note of the time period, they can't account for our will."
The quote is from roughly 12 hours of taped conversations that unexpectedly landed in the lap of Bill Tierney, a former Army warrant officer and Arabic speaker who was translating for the FBI tapes unearthed in Iraq after the invasion.
Mr. Tierney made a copy, which he provided to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The committee in turn gave a copy to intelligence analysts who authenticated the voice as that of Saddam.
Mr. Tierney said that the quote from the Saddam aide, and scores of others, show Saddam was rebuilding his once-ample weapons stocks.
"The tapes show that Saddam rebuilt his program and successfully prevented the U.N. from finding out about it," he said.
There also exists a quote from the dictator himself, who ordered the tapings to keep a record of his inner-sanctum discussions, that Mr. Tierney thinks shows Saddam planned to use a proxy to attack the United States.
"Terrorism is coming ... with the Americans," Saddam said. "With the Americans, two years ago, not a long while ago, with the English I believe, there was a campaign ... with one of them, that in the future there would be terrorism with weapons of mass destruction."
The tapes are spurring a new debate over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction stocks more than a year after the CIA's Iraq Survey Group (ISG) completed a lengthy postwar inspection. It concluded that Iraq did not possess stocks of weapons of mass destruction when the U.S-led coalition invaded in March 2003.
There is more to come. House intelligence committee Chairman Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, told The Washington Times that about 500 hours of additional Saddam tapings are still being translated and analyzed by the U.S. In addition, in Qatar, U.S. Central Command's forward headquarters in the Persian Gulf, sit 48,000 boxes of Iraqi documents, of which the military has delivered 68 pages to the committee.
"I don't want to overstate what is in the documents," Mr. Hoekstra said. "I certainly want to get them out because I think people are going to find them very interesting."
He said the office of John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, is now weighing the congressman's request to release 40 of the 68 pages.
Of the tapes released so far, Mr. Hoekstra said, "Everything [Saddam] is doing is saying, 'Let's take it and hide it' with a clear intent. 'As soon as this is over, we're going to be back after this.' "
So far, the tapes do not shed light on what ultimately happened to Saddam's large stocks of weapons of mass destruction. None were found by the ISG, whose director, Charles Duelfer, filed a final report in 2004.
Some pundits and recently retired military officers are convinced that Saddam moved his remaining weapons to Syria. They cite satellite photos of lines of trucks heading into the neighboring country before the invasion and the fact Saddam positioned his trusted Iraqi Intelligence Service agents at border crossings.
Mr. Duelfer said there were promising leads that weapons of mass destruction did go into Syria, but the security situation prevented him from closing the loop. Mr. Duelfer concluded that Saddam planned to resume weapons of mass destruction production once the United Nations lifted economic sanctions.
Mr. Tierney said he thinks the regime poured chemical weapons into lakes and rivers and sent other stocks over the border to Syria. Mr. Tierney served as a U.N. weapons inspector in the 1990s.
"The ISG, they were lied to in a very systematic way," he said. "Lying. They were very good at it."
|Saddam's palace tapes|
|ABC News has obtained 12 hours of tape recordings of Saddam Hussein meeting with top aides during the 1990s, tapes apparently recorded in Baghdad's version of the Oval Office.|
ABC News obtained the tapes from Bill Tierney, a former member of a United Nations inspection team who translated them for the FBI. Tierney said the U.S. government is wrong to keep these tapes and others secret from the public. "Because of my experience being in the inspections and being in the military, I knew the significance of these tapes when I heard them," says Tierney. U.S. officials have confirmed the tapes are authentic, and that they are among hundreds of hours of tapes Saddam recorded in his palace office.
One of the most dramatic moments in the 12 hours of recordings comes when Saddam predicts during a meeting in the mid 1990s a terrorist attack on the United States. "Terrorism is coming. I told the Americans a long time before August 2 and told the British as well that in the future there will be terrorism with weapons of mass destruction." Saddam goes on to say such attacks would be difficult to stop. "In the future, what would prevent a booby-trapped car causing a nuclear explosion in Washington or a germ or a chemical one?" But he adds that Iraq would never do such a thing. "This is coming, this story is coming but not from Iraq."
Also at the meeting was Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who said Iraq was being wrongly accused of terrorism. "Sir, the biological is very easy to make. It's so simple that any biologist can make a bottle of germs and drop it into a water tower and kill 100,000. This is not done by a state. No need to accuse a state. An individual can do it."
The tapes also reveal Iraq 's persistent efforts to hide information about weapons of mass destruction programs from U.N. inspectors well into the 1990s. In one pivotal tape-recorded meeting, which occurred in late April or May of 1995, Saddam and his senior aides discuss the fact that U.N. inspectors had uncovered evidence of Iraq's biological weapons programa program whose existence Iraq had previously denied.
At one point Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law and the man who was in charge of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction efforts can be heard on the tapes, speaking openly about hiding information from the U.N.
"We did not reveal all that we have," Kamel says in the meeting. "Not the type of weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported, not the volume of the production we told them about, not the volume of use. None of this was correct." Shortly after this meeting, in August 1995, Hussein Kamel defected to Jordan, and Iraq was forced to admit that it had concealed its biological weapons program. (Kamel returned to Iraq in February 1996 and was killed in a firefight with Iraqi security forces.)
A spokeswoman for the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, said information contained in the transcriptions of the tapes was already known to intelligence officials.
"Intelligence community analysts from the CIA, and the DIA reviewed the translations and found that while fascinating from a historical perspective the tapes do not reveal anything that changes their post war analysis of Iraq's weapons programs nor do they change the findings contained in the comprehensive Iraq Survey group report," the spokeswoman said in a statement.
"The tapes mostly date from early to mid 1990s and cover such topics as relations with the United Nations, efforts to rebuild industries from Gulf war damage and the pre 9/11 situation in Afghanistan."
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says the tapes are authentic and show that "Saddam had a fixation on weapons of mass destruction and he had a fixation on hiding what he was doing from the U.N. inspectors." Hoeckstra says there are more than 35,000 boxes of such tapes and documents that the U.S. government has not analyzed nor made public that should also be translated and studied on an urgent basis.
Charles Duelfer, who led the official U.S. search for weapons of mass destruction after the war, says the tapes show extensive deception but don't prove that weapons were still hidden in Iraq at the time of the U.S.-led war in 2003. "What they do is support the conclusion in the report, which we made in the last couple of years, that the regime had the intention of building and rebuilding weapons of mass destruction, when circumstances permitted."
Tierney, who provided ABC News with the tapes, plans to make the 12 hours of recordings public at a nongovernmental meeting called Intelligence Summit 2006 this weekend in Arlington, Va. John Loftus, a former federal prosecutor, runs the meeting. "We think this is a tape that is unclassified and available to the public," says Loftus ["I] just want to have it translated and let the tape speak for itself."
|Saddam Reportedly Warned U.S. of Terrorism - |
|Saddam Hussein told aides in the mid-1990s that he warned the United States it could be hit by a terrorist attack, ABC News reported Wednesday, citing 12 hours of tapes the network obtained of the former Iraqi dictator's talks with his Cabinet. One of Saddam's son-in-laws also explained how Iraq hid its biological weapons programs from U.N. inspectors, according to the tapes from August 1995.|
The coming terrorist attack Saddam predicted could involve weapons of mass destruction. "Terrorism is coming. I told the Americans," Saddam is heard saying, adding he "told the British as well. In the future, what would prevent a booby trapped car causing a nuclear explosion in Washington or a germ or a chemical one?" But he insisted Iraq would never launch such an attack. "This story is coming, but not from Iraq," he said.
The State Department had no comment on the report, which aired on "World News Tonight." ABC News said U.S. officials confirmed the tapes were authentic. ABC News said the CIA found the tapes in Iraq and that the 12 hours were provided to it by Bill Tierney, a former member of a U.N. inspection team who was translating them for the FBI. ABC News quoted Tierney as saying the U.S. government was wrong to keep the tapes secret. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told Saddam on the tape that "the biological (attack) is very easy to make. It's so simple that any biologist can make a bottle of germs and drop it into a water tower and kill 100,000. This is not done by a state. No need to accuse a state. An individual can do it."
Hussein Kamel, a son-in-law of Saddam's, who was then in charge of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction efforts, explained how Iraq held back information from the U.N. inspectors. "We did not reveal all that we have," he said. "We did not reveal the volume of chemical weapons we had produced." Kamel said Iraq had not revealed "the type of weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported." Hussein Kamel defected to Jordan shortly after the tapes were recorded, and Iraq was forced to admit it had concealed its biological weapons program. Kamel returned to Iraq in February 1996 and was killed by security forces.
Charles Duelfer, who led the official U.S. search for weapons of mass destruction after the first Gulf War, told ABC News the tapes show extensive deception but don't prove that weapons were still hidden in Iraq at the time of the U.S.-led war in 2003. "What they do is support the conclusion in the report which we made in the last couple of years, that the regime had the intention of building and rebuilding weapons of mass destruction, when circumstances permitted," he said.
|Home Front: WoT|
|Was WMD search in Iraq thorough?|
|A former special investigator for the Pentagon during the Iraq war said he found four sealed underground bunkers in southern Iraq that he is sure contain stocks of chemical and biological weapons. But when he asked American weapons inspectors to check out the sites, he was rebuffed.|
David Gaubatz, a former member of the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations, was assigned to the Talill Air Base in Nasiriyah at the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His job was to pick up any intelligence on the whereabouts of senior Baathists and weapons of mass destruction and then send the information to the American weapons inspectors gathering in Baghdad that would later become the Iraq Survey Group. For his intelligence work he received accolades and meritorious service medals in 2003 and prior years. Before the war he helped uncover a spy in the Saudi military. He also assisted with the rescue and repatriation to America of the family of Mohammed Rehaief, the Iraqi lawyer who helped save Private Jessica Lynch.
Mr. Gaubatz said he walked the streets of the largely Shiite city of Nasiriyah, interviewing local police, former senior civilian and military leaders in Saddam Hussein's regime, and local civilians.
Between March and July 2003, Mr. Gaubatz was taken by these sources to four locations - three in and around Nasiriyah and one near the port of Umm Qasr, where he was shown underground concrete bunkers with the tunnels leading to them deliberately flooded. In each case, he was told the facilities contained stocks of biological and chemical weapons, along with missiles whose range exceeded that mandated under U.N. sanctions. But because the facilities were sealed off with concrete walls, in some cases up to 5 feet thick, he did not get inside. He filed reports with photographs, exact grid coordinates, and testimony from multiple sources. And then he waited for the Iraq Survey Group to come to the sites. But in all but one case, they never arrived.
Mr. Gaubatz's new disclosures shed doubt on the thoroughness of the Iraq Survey Group's search for the weapons of mass destruction that were one of the Bush administration's main reasons for the war. Two chief inspectors from the group, David Kay and Charles Duelfer, concluded that they could not find evidence of the promised stockpiles. Mr. Kay refused to be interviewed for this story and Mr. Duelfer did not return email. The CIA referred these questions to Mr. Duelfer.
"I have no doubts the sites were never exploited by ISG. We agents begged and begged for weeks and months to get ISG to respond to the sites with the proper equipment," Mr. Gaubatz said in a telephone interview. He returned to his wife and daughter in July 2003, and then wrote letters about the sites to more senior officials in military intelligence. But he said he never received any satisfactory response and says that to this day the sites have never been fully checked out.
He says the reasons he was given by the survey group were that the areas of the sites were not safe, they lacked manpower and equipment, and at the time the survey group was focusing activities in northern Iraq. "The ISG team was not organized nor outfitted for this mission in my opinion and were only concerned to look in northern Iraq. They were not even on the ground during the first few weeks of the war, and this was the most critical time to go out and exploit sites. I feel very comfortable in saying the sites were never exploited by ISG," he said. In one instance a few inspectors did come out once to follow one lead, Mr. Gaubatz said. But they lacked the equipment and manpower to crack the bunker. "An adequate search would have required heavy equipment to uncover the concrete, and additional equipment to drain the water."
|Home Front: Politix|
|House Intel Comittee reopening issue of Iraq's WMDs|
|Nearly a year and a half after a final report from American weapons inspectors concluded they could not uncover evidence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has reopened the question, launching an inquiry and asking the director of national intelligence to re-examine the issue.|
Chairman Peter Hoekstra, a Republican from Michigan, is said by his staff to believe that it is too soon to conclude that Saddam Hussein either destroyed or never had the stockpiles and programs to produce biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons that Western intelligence agencies insisted he had before the war.
President Bush and two inspectors he appointed to find the weapons have all said the evidence of the weapons has not turned up, and the president announced shortly after he won the 2004 elections that the search for Saddam's WMD was over. But at the same time, Mr. Hoekstra is not alone in his concerns about the whereabouts of Saddam's arsenal. Prime Minister Sharon and his Israel Defense Force chief of staff during the Iraq war, Moshe Yaalon, have said weapons were transferred from Iraq to Syria before the war, a view also promoted by a former Iraqi air force general, Georges Sada. Senator Clinton last week acknowledged that the possibility is still a live one, saying, "there were no weapons, or if there were, they certainly weren't used or they were in some way disposed of or taken out of the country."
In the weeks before and following the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, at least 10 facilities believed by American, European, and Israeli intelligence to be for the production and research of chemical and biological weapons were systematically looted by members of Iraq's Republican Guard, ordered by the regime's leadership to destroy and hide evidence of the programs, according to current and former intelligence officials from America, Britain and Israel. In interviews with the New York Sun, these officials reflect the position of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld in the months after the war: "The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence."
The chairman of the House intelligence committee apparently has a similar view. "The chairman very much believes the issue of weapons of mass destruction is not settled yet and there are sufficient questions of organized looting, transfer to another country or party or things that may have been missed by the survey group. There are enough questions that need to be answered before anyone can say definitively what happened," a spokesman for Mr. Hoekstra, Jamal Ware, said yesterday.
Mr. Ware yesterday said Mr. Hoekstra is worried that equipment or stocks of biological and chemical weapons could have been transferred to a third country or landed in the hands of terrorists.
The former undersecretary of defense for policy, Douglas Feith, said the question of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is still open. "People talk about the former Soviet loose nukes problem. The question is whether this is a loose WMD problem," Mr. Feith said. Mr. Feith, who has been vilified for overseeing a tiny group special office in the Pentagon before the war that assembled intelligence on Iraq, said, "We have not found evidence of stockpiles. But there remains lots of open questions because we have not found evidence to confirm what he did with all the stockpiles he had."
Mr. Feith's view that questions remain about Iraq's weapons program is also held by the State Department's chief of Iraq intelligence between 2003 and 2005, Wayne White. In an interview this week, Mr. White, said, "Just as the pre-war WMD intelligence was largely wrong, the conclusion after the war that absolutely nothing was in Iraq could also be wrong."
If Mr. Hoekstra and Mr. Feith are correct that the weapons programs could have been disassembled and may be in enemy hands, the political and diplomatic implications for the Bush administration are complicated. In a sense, it validates one of Mr. Bush's key reasons for going to war. But if the weapons existed and were hidden or sent elsewhere, then the war partially justified to disarm a tyrant who may slip germs, chemicals or even nuclear materials to terrorists may have set off a chain of events that led to the very scenario Mr. Bush was trying to preempt.
This was one line of attack the president's critics took shortly after the war. Writing on May 21, 2003, in Canada's Globe and Mail, Susan Rice, a former assistant secretary of state under President Clinton who would go on to become a foreign policy adviser to Howard Dean during the 2004 election season, raised the prospect of Saddam's missing weapons in terms similar to Mr. Feith. "The richest treasure trove of dangerous WMD material since the collapse of the Soviet Union is on the loose and perhaps far easier for al-Qaeda and other terrorists to acquire than it was under the control of their ideological adversary, Saddam Hussein," she wrote.
Mr. White, who counts himself as a critic of the president's decision to go to war, is confident that organized looting from the regime occurred in the first weeks after the invasion. "Efforts were taken by remnants of the Iraqi intelligence services and Republican Guard to destroy portions of sites known to be associated with WMD," he said. "What does that tell you? If there was nothing to hide, why were these sites destroyed? Obviously there was something there. There is evidence to suggest there were files and perhaps even equipment that was destroyed aggressively in the months following the fall of Baghdad."
Mr. White says that in those months after the launch of the war he would often sit in weekly meetings to go over the Iraq intelligence, hear repeated reports of sites systematically looted or destroyed, and shake his head. "I was not making much of this at the time and it was pointless. In most cases I was turning to a person sitting next to me, thinking it was over. Game over. The main problem we had at the time was insurgency," he said.
While the view that in many cases Iraqis had gotten to the WMD facilities before the Americans may be surprising to many war critics, the final report from the last chief weapons inspector, Charles Duelfer concedes as much. In the preamble of his September 30, 2004 report, Mr. Duelfer writes that his Iraq Survey Group's "ability to gather information was in most ways more limited than was that of United Nations inspectors. First, many sites had been reduced to rubble either by the war or subsequent looting. The coalition did not have the manpower to secure the various sites thought to be associated with WMD. Hence, as a military unit moved through an area, possible WMD sites might have been examined, but they were left soon after. Looters often destroyed the sites once they were abandoned."
Mr. Duelfer writes that looting along with the "chaos of the war" contributed to "the loss of a great amount of potentially very valuable information and material for constructing a full picture of Iraqi WMD capabilities."
Mr. Duelfer's predecessor, in his October 2, 2003 testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, David Kay said, "Deliberate dispersal and destruction of material and documentation related to weapons programs began pre-conflict and ran trans-to-post conflict."
A former colonel for Israeli military intelligence who worked on Iraqi issues, Miri Eisin, says of a transfer of weapons to Syria, "I don't know all of it, but some things went in that route. At the end of the day, it would be the type of things they could hide. This would strike out the biological type things, but they could get chemical weapons, possibly residual missile parts." Other Israeli and American officials say they doubt the weapons were moved to Syria and that intelligence did not confirm the initial reports that the weapons were moved.
|More on Sada's claims|
|A former Iraqi general alleges that in June 2002 Saddam Hussein transported weapons of mass destruction out of the country to Syria aboard several refitted commercial jets, under the pretense of conducting a humanitarian mission for flood victims.|
That's one of several dramatic claims made in the book by former Iraqi General Georges Sada: "Saddam's Secrets: How an Iraqi General Defied and Survived Saddam Hussein." Since the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Sada has served as the spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and continues to serve as national security advisor. He is the former vice marshal of the Iraqi Air Force. Sada was interviewed at the headquarters of Cybercast News Service on Jan. 30.
Sada contends that Saddam took advantage of a June 4, 2002, irrigation dam collapse in Zeyzoun, Syria, to ship the weapons under cover of an aid project to the flooded region.
"[Saddam] said 'Okay, Iraq is going to do an air bridge to help Syria," Sada recounted. Two commercial jets, a 747 and 727, were converted to cargo jets, in order to carry raw materials and equipment related to WMD projects, Sada said. The passenger seats, galleys, toilets and storage compartments were removed and new flooring was installed, he claimed. Hundreds of tons of chemicals were reportedly included in the cargo shipments.
"They used to do two sorties a day," said Sada. "Fifty-six sorties were done between Baghdad and Damascus."
Sada said he obtained the information from two Iraq Airways captains who were reportedly flying the sorties. "They came immediately and they told me," said Sada.
This is not the first time that the possibility of a transfer of WMDs from Iraq to Syria has been raised. Two years ago, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, (R-Kan), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence acknowledged that "there is some concern that shipments of WMD went to Syria." No details were forthcoming. The claims have also been made by the U.S.-based Reform Party of Syria.
Sada told Cybercast News Service that he has not been debriefed by U.S. officials regarding his allegations that Saddam smuggled WMDs to Syria. He anticipates, now that his book has been released, that he will be meeting with U.S. officials regarding the information.
U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, plans to meet with Sada to discuss the allegations. "The chairman has read General Sada's book and talked to Retired Col. (David) Eberly," said Jamal Ware, communications director for the committee. "He will meet with General Sada to hear first-hand him laying out the case that this transferal may have happened."
There is "no doubt" that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, according to Eberly. He adds that Sada's book is "evidence" of that. Eberly's F-15E jet was shot down on Jan. 19, 1991, the third day of the first Persian Gulf War. He credits Sada with saving his life after the Iraqi general refused an order from one of Saddam's sons to execute Eberly and 23 other pilots who had been taken as prisoners of war.
"Qusay (Hussein) had ordered [Sada] to execute all the pilots," Eberly said. "But Georges wouldn't do it. He argued that the rights accorded to prisoners under the Geneva Convention were inviolable." Eberly said Sada was arrested on Jan. 25, 1991, by the Iraqi Republican Guard and held prisoner. Sada said Saddam eventually changed his mind about the executions, probably because he realized the killings would galvanize world opinion against him.
Hoekstra believes details on pre-war Iraq are "cloudy" and that more should be done to gain a "clearer sense of what was happening in pre-war Iraq," Ware said. "A lot of people reached deterministic conclusions, but there is evidence that still needs to be checked before final conclusions [are made] on WMD and Saddam Hussein's connections to terrorists."
Hoekstra is pushing for the declassification of select documents and debriefing of relevant officials from Saddam Hussein's regime. "All these things are critical elements," said Ware.
David Kay, who as head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), led the CIA's hunt for WMD in Iraq until December 2003, made headlines in January 2004 when he asserted that pre-war intelligence on Iraq's WMD had been "almost all wrong." Kay added that he himself had previously believed there were WMD in Iraq, and that intelligence from various countries like Germany and France indicated the same thing.
In October 2004 Kay told National Public Radio (NPR) that "There is no evidence of any transfer of weapons material to Syria, and certainly not of weapons, in the lead-up to the Gulf War, although that's an area that will always have some ambiguity because the Syrians, to say the least, have not been cooperative in running down any leads in Syria.
"The bulk of the evidence really points to -- that things did go to Syria, but they weren't weapons of mass destruction or weapons material," Kay added. He said there is "no evidence" that Iraq ever produced any large amounts of chemical nerve agents after 1991. "In fact, all the evidence is just the opposite," he told NPR.
Kay was succeeded by Charles Duelfer, whose 1,500-page October 2004 report on WMD bore many similarities.
"There were no WMD stockpiles; my conclusion, Charles Duelfer's conclusion," Kay said. He and Duelfer asserted that Saddam's regime maintained a vague intention to resume WMD production at some point and for that reason had attempted to hold on to "intellectual capital" related to the programs.
Those conclusions were made in spite of the congressional testimony in 2002 from Iraqi nuclear scientist Khidhir Hamza, who suggested Iraq might have a nuclear weapon by 2005. Hamza defected to the U.S. from Iraq in 1994.
Richard Butler, former head of the United Nations weapons inspection team in Iraq, gave similar testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "What there is now is evidence that Saddam has reinvigorated his nuclear weapons program," Butler said. He also reported that Iraq had an extensive chemical weapons program and had tested various ways to deliver biological weapons.
After hearing the testimony from Hamza and Butler, Sen. Joseph Biden, (D-Del.), head of the Foreign Relations panel, commented that "one thing is clear: These weapons must be dislodged from Saddam, or Saddam must be dislodged from power."
Approximately a month later, Hamza was accused by former employer David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, of deliberately distorting his credentials and making inaccurate statements on nuclear programs. The accusation was echoed by five other Iraqi nuclear scientists, both pro-war and anti-war.
In a now-famous speech just three months after Hamza's testimony, President Bush asserted that "if the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year."
|No Rush to Examine Oil-For-Food Documents|
|UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- In a secret and secure location, a set of computers holds the hundreds of thousands of files that document how companies and individuals from some 40 countries exploited the U.N. oil-for-food program in league with Saddam Hussein. Yet nearly two months after the $35 million U.N.-backed probe that collected all those documents exposed just how troubled the program was, there has been no rush by the authorities in question to study it.|
Prosecutors and investigators from just 11 countries have requested documents for prosecuting bodies since the probe's final report was released Oct. 27, said Reid Morden, executive director of the inquiry led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. Last week the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based group of 30 free-market democracies, urged governments to do more to investigate evidence of kickbacks and corruption. Morden said he was not concerned at the pace so far. "It's not surprising that things are drifting in as opposed to an avalanche at day one."
Some experts suspect there are governments that don't want to investigate their own complicity, or that treat bribery as the price of doing business abroad, or simply have judicial machinery that grinds slowly. Morden would not say which prosecutors have sought information, but an official close to the investigation said they were Australia, Britain, France, Germany, India, Italy, Jordan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United States. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the names of the countries have not been released.
Some of the most active prosecutors are in the United States, where 15 people have been charged; France, where judges are investigating 10 officials and business leaders; and Switzerland, where a criminal probe is focusing on at least four people. Yet in others, like Russia, home to many of the companies that participated in the oil-for-food abuses, there appears to have been little movement.
"I don't think it's surprising that some of these governments may be less than assiduous in following up," said James Dobbins, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state now with the Rand Corp. "It probably depends in part on the exact facts of any given case, but I don't think in most cases they're going to prosecute it with a crusading zeal."
The oil-for-food program, established in 1996 with Iraq's economy crippled by sanctions, allowed Saddam to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods meant for his people. But Volcker's inquiry showed that Saddam sold oil to foreign countries in hopes of getting their support for lifting sanctions, and enriched himself by $1.8 billion through a kickback scheme. Companies and politicians essentially paid him for the right to do business, circumventing the U.N. program.
Even the head of the program, Benon Sevan, was accused of accepting some $147,000 in kickbacks, a charge he denies. Sevan is being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney's office but has returned to his native Cyprus, which has no extradition treaty with the United States. In November, the Volcker committee's mandate was extended to Dec. 31 in order to preserve investigators' access to the documents, and Morden said the team would ensure that they can get them well beyond that date.
Fearing the report may be ignored, some U.S. lawmakers have shared information with foreign authorities and pressed them to take action.
Norm Coleman, the Minnesota Republican who chairs a permanent Senate subcommittee on investigations and has been a leading critic of both the U.N. and oil-for-food, has met with several ambassadors of countries whose companies or government personnel were said to be involved.
But worldwide anti-corruption surveys show that paying bribes and kickbacks are generally seen as a necessary part of dealmaking with foreign countries. Iraq was clearly one of them, said Charles Duelfer, a former U.S. weapons inspector whose own report on Iraq's weapons capabilities, released last year, also detailed much of the wrongdoing in oil-for-food. "Certainly Iraq, even before oil-for-food and sanctions, conducted business by buying influence," Duelfer said.
But anti-corruption advocates say that should be no excuse for the many reputable U.S. and European companies named in Volcker's report. "It was absolutely everyone," said Juanita Olaya of Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-corruption watchdog. "It's easy to fall into the commonplace of saying the Iraqi regime was terrible, but the whole cauldron of things there was terrible. There was of course a lot of secrecy, but how come 2,200 companies had to bear this and you never heard someone blowing the whistle out loud?"
Since Volcker's report appeared, Volvo has acknowledged paying the regime, with chief executive Leif Johansson telling the Swedish news agency TT, "This was the way to do business in Iraq." Siemens of Germany has denied wrongdoing, while German authorities are investigating a former employee of DaimlerChrysler AG over the sale of a vehicle to Iraq mentioned in the inquiry.
Two leading politicians have faced public scrutiny for their involvement. India's former foreign minister, Natwar Singh, was demoted after the allegations arose, and then resigned on Tuesday, still denying wrongdoing. France is investigating Jean-Bernard Merimee, its former U.N. ambassador. "In the United States I have confidence that they will investigate and prosecute wherever it's appropriate, I just hope other member governments do the same," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said.
Megawati Sukarnoputri, former president of Indonesia and ultranationalist Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky were among politicians named in the report. Both have denied wrongdoing and no investigation has been announced.
The government of Jordan, whose companies were prominent among alleged violators, said more than a month ago that it has begun an inquiry. But the most prominent Jordanian mentioned in the report, Fawaz Zureikat, said he hasn't been contacted yet. Zureikat, a Jordanian businessman, was accused of funneling money from the oil-for-food program to the wife of British parliamentarian George Galloway and a political organization that Galloway established in 1998 to help a 4-year-old Iraqi girl with leukemia. Galloway insists he's the innocent victim of a "witch hunt."
Zureikat, who has denied any wrongdoing, offers a widely held claim that the oil-for-food investigation is a largely U.S.-led campaign to discredit the United Nations. "The United States wants the U.N. to be disqualified as a responsible organization in international affairs," he said.