Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 2004

CIA changes scope of WMD hunt

U.S. to focus on Saddam’s intentions after little progress in weapons search

March 31, 2004


— Still unable to find banned Iraqi weapons, the new U.S. weapons inspector said Tuesday his strategy was to expose Saddam Hussein's intentions regarding weapons of mass destruction.

Charles Duelfer, the CIA's special adviser on the weapons hunt, said the Iraq Survey Group he oversees was looking for a comprehensive picture, not simply an answer to the question: Were there weapons or not?

He did not say how long the effort might take.

"We're looking at it from soup to nuts, from the weapons end to the planning end to the intentions end," Duelfer said at a Capitol Hill news conference, nine weeks after he took over the weapons search.

In a closed session before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier Tuesday, Duelfer said U.S. weapons hunters in Iraq have found more evidence Saddam's regime had civilian, or "dual use," factories able to quickly produce biological and chemical weapons.

And, according to declassified testimony shared with reporters, Duelfer said the survey group has found new evidence that Iraqi scientists flight tested long-range ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that "easily exceeded" U.N. limits of 93 miles.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, the top Democrat on armed services, called on the CIA to declassify Duelfer's status report. Levin said he was "deeply troubled" that the public version leaves out information that casts doubt on the notion that Iraq had an active WMD program.

For instance, Duelfer's unclassified status report indicates that it's unclear whether Iraq's efforts to obtain aluminum tubes were to develop a uranium enrichment capability. But, Levin said, "you'd get an impression of unlikelihoods" in the classified version.

Levin said the selective use of information in Duelfer's statement raises the same issues the CIA has faced regarding the prewar intelligence on Iraq. "The CIA should not go down that road again," he said.

Duelfer didn't break significant ground on the weapons search, saying he lacked sufficient information to make conclusions about what Saddam had.

He said the survey group is still going through 20 million pages of documents, visiting possible weapons sites and trying to glean information from former government officials.

Duelfer took over the job as the top civilian weapons inspector after his predecessor, David Kay, resigned in January and told Congress "we were almost all wrong" about Saddam's weapons programs.

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