[Wow, almost three years later, the truth becomes a public issue. The White House calls this report "irresponsible", and clings to the incompetence defense.]
Lacking Biolabs, Trailers Carried Case for War
Administration Pushed Notion of Banned Iraqi Weapons Despite Evidence to Contrary
By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 12, 2006; Page A01
On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."
The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.
[Sarin Nerve Toxin -- $150B per gallon.]
Tests Confirm Sarin in Iraqi Artillery Shell
FOXNEWS -- May 18, 2004
NEW YORK — Tests on an artillery shell that blew up in Iraq on Saturday confirm that it did contain an estimated three or four liters of the deadly nerve agent sarin (search), Defense Department officials told Fox News Tuesday.
The artillery shell was being used as an improvised roadside bomb, the U.S. military said Monday. The 155-mm shell exploded before it could be rendered inoperable, and two U.S. soldiers were treated for minor exposure to the nerve agent.
Three liters is about three-quarters of a gallon; four liters is a little more than a gallon.
"A little drop on your skin will kill you" in the binary form, said Ret. Air Force Col. Randall Larsen, founder of Homeland Security Associates. "So for those in immediate proximity, three liters is a lot," but he added that from a military standpoint, a barrage of shells with that much sarin in them would more likely be used as a weapon than one single shell.
The soldiers displayed "classic" symptoms of sarin exposure, most notably dilated pupils and nausea, officials said. The symptoms ran their course fairly quickly, however, and as of Tuesday the two had returned to duty.
The munition found was a binary chemical shell, meaning it featured two chambers, each containing separate chemical compounds. Upon impact with the ground after the shell is fired, the barrier between the chambers is broken, the chemicals mix and sarin is created and dispersed.
Intelligence officials stressed that the compounds did not mix effectively on Saturday. Due to the detonation, burn-off and resulting spillage, it was not clear exactly how much harmful material was inside the shell.
A 155-mm shell can hold two to five liters of sarin; three to four liters is likely the right number, intelligence officials said.
Another shell filled with mustard gas (search), possibly also part of an improvised explosive device (IED) was discovered on May 2, Defense Dept. officials said.
The second shell was found by passing soldiers in a median on a thoroughfare west of Baghdad. It probably was simply left there by someone, officials said, and it was unclear whether it was meant to be used as a bomb.
[This article fails to mention that the finding of sarin was only a field test, and that laboratory tests will be required to confirm this finding.
The always predictable NewsMax as a different take ...
WMD Confirmed: Sarin Bomb Explodes
Proof beyond a doubt Saddam had WMD. Iraqi insurgents use chemical weapon and media ignore the story. ]
Shell said to contain sarin poses a dilemma for U.S.
Houston Chronicle -- May 18, 2004
By MICHAEL HEDGES
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- American officials from Baghdad to Washington scrambled Monday to determine whether the explosion of a shell they said contained poison gas posed a new threat to U.S. soldiers or proved Saddam Hussein's regime kept significant illegal weapons.
Two soldiers were slightly injured when the artillery shell rigged as a roadside bomb exploded Saturday, dispersing a small amount of a chemical agent that experts concluded was sarin, coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Monday from Baghdad.
Guests: Secretary Colin Powell, Department of State; Senator Joseph Biden, D-DE, Ranking Member, Foreign Relations Committee; Senator John McCain, R-AZ, Armed Services Committee
NBC News' Meet the Press -- May 16, 2004
Russert: Thank you very much, sir. In February of 2003, you put your enormous personal reputation on the line before the United Nations and said that you had solid sources for the case against Saddam Hussein. It now appears that an agent called Curveball had misled the CIA by suggesting that Saddam had trucks and trains that were delivering biological and chemical weapons. How concerned are you that some of the information you shared with the world is now inaccurate and discredited?
Powell: I'm very concerned. When I made that presentation in February 2003, it was based on the best information that the Central Intelligence Agency made available to me. We studied it carefully; we looked at the sourcing in the case of the mobile trucks and trains. There was multiple sourcing for that. Unfortunately, that multiple sourcing over time has turned out to be not accurate. And so I'm deeply disappointed. But I'm also comfortable that at the time that I made the presentation, it reflected the collective judgment, the sound judgment of the intelligence community. But it turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and in some cases, deliberately misleading. And for that, I am disappointed and I regret it.
Powell says bad data misled him on Iraq
Los Angeles Times via San Francisco Chronicle -- April 3, 2004
Washington -- Secretary of State Colin Powell directly criticized the intelligence community for the first time Friday for giving him apparently flawed information that he used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Powell said the "most dramatic'' of his allegations -- that Saddam Hussein's regime had mobile germ labs -- was based on questionable U.S. intelligence
The allegations were central to the evidence that Powell dramatically presented to the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, as he urged a skeptical world body to confront Hussein.
Powell said that as he prepared for his U.N. presentation, intelligence officials gave him data from four sources on mobile weapons laboratories. He insisted that he had pushed them to make sure their analysis was correct.
"It was presented to me in the preparation of that (portfolio of evidence) as the best information and intelligence that we had," he said. "They certainly indicated to me ... that it was solid.
"Now it appears not to be the case that it was solid,'' he said.
He called on a federal commission investigating prewar intelligence to examine how the data had been gathered.
The comments were an abrupt reversal for Powell, who had acknowledged disagreements among analysts but had not criticized the intelligence agencies.
Whiskey Bar -- April 3, 2004
Germans accuse US over Iraq weapons claim
The Guardian -- April 2, 2004
Luke Harding in Berlin
An Iraqi defector nicknamed Curveball who wrongly claimed that Saddam Hussein had mobile chemical weapons factories was last night at the centre of a bitter row between the CIA and Germany's intelligence agency.
German officials said that they had warned American colleagues well before the Iraq war that Curveball's information was not credible - but the warning was ignored.
It was the Iraqi defector's testimony that led the Bush administration to claim that Saddam had built a fleet of trucks and railway wagons to produce anthrax and other deadly germs.
In his presentation to the UN security council in February last year, the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, explicitly used Curveball's now discredited claims as justification for war. The Iraqis were assembling "mobile production facilities for biological agents", Mr Powell said, adding that his information came from "a solid source".
These "killer caravans" allowed Saddam to produce anthrax "on demand", it was claimed. US officials never had direct access to the defector, and have subsequently claimed that the Germans misled them.
Yesterday, however, German agents told Die Zeit newspaper that they had warned the Bush administration long before last year that there were "problems" with Curveball's account. "We gave a clear credibility assessment. On our side at least, there were no tricks before Colin Powell's presentation," one source told the newspaper.
Officially, Germany's intelligence agency, the BND, has refused to comment.
The revelation is embarrassing for the Bush administration and appears to bolster the contention that it used dubious intelligence in a partisan manner in the critical few weeks before the invasion of Iraq.
It has now emerged that Curveball is the brother of a top aide of Ahmad Chalabi, the pro-western Iraqi former exile with links to the Pentagon.
According to the Los Angeles Times, it was UN inspectors who came up with the idea that Saddam might have developed mobile factories to try to evade weapons inspections. They asked Mr Chalabi, a bitter enemy of Saddam, to find evidence to support the theory.
Recently, American officials have admitted that Curveball's information was false. Meanwhile, David Kay, who resigned as head of the Iraqi survey group in January after a fruitless nine-month search for weapons of mass destruction, said in an interview that Curveball had been "absolutely at the heart of the matter", but had turned out to be an "out and out fabricator".
US and British intelligence officials have acknowledged since the war that much of the information supplied by Mr Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress and other Iraqi groups was wrong. Yesterday, German sources said they were bemused by the idea that they had tricked the US. "We ask ourselves, what are they on about?" one said.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
ASIO erred in ignoring WMD info: Democrat
The Age -- April 2, 2004
By Russell Skelton
Australian Democrats Leader Andrew Bartlett yesterday described ASIO's decision not to interview a top Iraqi scientist about the location of five claimed chemical weapons bunkers as extraordinary and troubling.
"On the evidence available it is strange that they did not investigate his claims further. It doesn't sound at all inspiring," Senator Bartlett said.
He said the scientist's claims should have been thoroughly scrutinised as a matter of routine. "It seems they just followed up one little piece of information and then decided to let the entire matter drop," he said.
The Age revealed yesterday that a top Iraqi scientist, who uses the pseudonym Rashid, offered the Federal Government information purporting to pinpoint the location of five secret bunkers just days before the Iraq war began. The scientist, a key member of Saddam's inner circle of scientific advisers before fleeing to Australia in 1999, offered the information to the assistant director of the Immigration Department's intelligence unit, who found him to be credible and referred the information to ASIO. But a senior ASIO manager subsequently dismissed it as being of "no further interest" and he was never interviewed.
Powell no longer sure Iraqi trailers were weapons labs
AP via Boston Globe -- April 2, 2004
By Barry Schweid
WASHINGTON (AP) Secretary of State Colin Powell conceded Friday evidence he presented to the United Nations that two trailers in Iraq were used for weapons of mass destruction may have been wrong.
Nach der Geheimdienstschlappe im Irak wehrt die CIA Vorwürfe ab. Stattdessen beschuldigt sie den BND: Er habe die USA nicht vor einem Lügenbold gewarnt
Die Zeit -- 1 April 2004
Von Jochen Bittner
[Translated by Google.]
Er war der wichtigste Informant für einen der schwersten Vorwürfe, den die amerikanische Regierung im Frühjahr 2003 gegen Saddam Hussein vorbrachte. Curveball nannte die CIA den Mann aus dem Irak. Ein vielsagender Deckname. Er stammt aus dem Baseball und bezeichnet Würfe, die dem Ball einen Spin verpassen und so die Flugbahn krümmen. Eine kunstvoll-trickreiche und meist durchschlagende Technik. Doch mittlerweile haben sich Curveballs scharfe Anwürfe gegen Saddam Hussein als Schlappen entpuppt. Die CIA ist gar nicht mehr stolz auf ihn – und schiebt die Verantwortung für einen der schlimmsten Geheimdienstfehler vor dem Irak-Krieg dem deutschen Bundesnachrichtendienst zu.
That Boomerang Spy
Die Zeit -- 1 April 2004
by Jochen Bittner
He was the most important informant for one of the heaviest reproaches, which the American government stated in the spring 2003 against Saddam Hussein. Curveball called the CIA the man from the Iraq. A much-saying pseudonym. It originates from the baseball and designates throws, which give a spin to the ball and curve so the flight path. A art-full-sophistiated and usually piercing technology. But meanwhile Curveballs sharp have themselves would start against Saddam Hussein as Schlappen emerged. The CIA is not proud any longer on it and pushes over the responsibility for one of the worst secret service errors before the Iraq war the German Federal Information Service.
Curveballs on WMD
The press still needs to come clean on hyping Iraqi weapons that haven't been found.
Editor & Publisher -- April 1, 2004
By William E. Jackson Jr.
One year after the war in Iraq began, with media criticism of The New York Times' coverage of the search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) continuing, both Bill Keller and Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. (the paper's executive editor and publisher) have recently come to the defense of embattled star reporter Judith Miller. The powers that be prefer that the paramount role of the newspaper of record in hyping the WMD threat to be forgotten. Since there's no way to turn back the clock -- and run up to the war again -- why does this issue still matter?
I have two answers:
1. To turn the page on what occurred in the print media before and after the war -- while most major news organizations have yet to admit their sorry record -- is to lose sight of lessons vital for the future of journalistic principles and ethics. While many of them may be publishing hard-hitting reports today, where were U.S. news organizations before the war, when it might have made a difference in exposing the inaccurate, deceptive or fictional evidence contained in the administration's propaganda over the Iraqi WMD threat?
The Washington Post was the main general exception to the charge (the reporting of James Risen in The New York Times notwithstanding). So was Knight Ridder's triple threat of Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel and John Walcott. And the Associated Press' Dafna Linzer demonstrated a consistent record of skepticism in her WMD reporting.
Why were they the exceptions, not the rule?
2. But the supreme reason not to drop the matter of press coverage is the price in blood and treasure that the United States is continuing to pay for the pre-emptive attack -- for which the press served as "enablers." Reporters and editors at major newspapers really did help bring on the war, fanning fears and coddling partisan sources (including Iraqi defectors), while dumbing down the views of experts who questioned the prevailing line in Washington.
Even a first-rate military correspondent like Michael Gordon could co-author with Judith Miller the oft-cited front-page New York Times "mushroom cloud" story of Sept. 8, 2002 ("U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts") that followed close on the heels of Vice President Dick Cheney's speech of August 26 asserting that there was "no doubt" that Saddam had WMD and was prepared to use them. In their own words -- not merely quoting the claims of others -- the two asserted: "Mr. Hussein's dogged insistence on pursuing his nuclear ambitions along with what defectors described in interviews as Iraq's push to improve and expand Baghdad's chemical and biological arsenals, have brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war."
Keller, when defending Miller on Public Editor Daniel Okrent's Web journal recently, cryptically alluded to the "handling and presenting" of her stories by unnamed editors, suggesting that he should not punish her because they were equally to blame. Who were the editors who let her express highly influential opinions in news stories, get away with poor or partisan sourcing, and who placed her stories on the front page? It was not a rare occurrence for Miller to outright editorialize in a "news" article, as when she stated without qualification that her discoveries in the field bolstered Bush administration claims.
Where, oh where is the ombud?
Where is the Times' new ombudsman one might ask? Gradually, alas, the public editor's unique role at a proud paper that had never had an ombudsman, is being co-opted. Nothing illustrates the point better than last week's "you speak, I record" entry with Keller's defense of Miller in Okrent's Web journal (March 26).
The ombudsman provided a forum for the executive editor to spin a rather lazy defense of Miller's past actions. Keller was permitted to contemptuously dismiss many of the critics of her notorious misreporting on WMD as mere Web surfers, even though Okrent has repeatedly refused to take a critical look back at the stories in dispute (which Keller is now defending). Thus, Okrent can wash his hands in public, as if to say the Times has dealt with that.
Earlier, on Feb. 17, Okrent had allowed Miller herself to challenge quotations attributed to her by Michael Massing in his widely-read "Now They Tell Us" essay in the Feb. 26 issue of The New York Review of Books. Okrent explained that many readers had asked him for comment on the Massing story. Breaking his policy of not addressing controversies that arose before he came on board at the paper on Dec. 1, he nevertheless contacted Miller and included a letter she had sent to the NYRB editors complaining about being misquoted. Massing would stand by his reporting, saying he had checked all the quotes with Miller beforehand.
Fairness demands that Okrent's huge task, with limited resources, be acknowledged. His Web log is now attracting attention, some of it sympathetic as in the case of this reader: "I feel for Dan Okrent. He has to have the hardest job in journalism."
But other correspondents have not been so understanding. A recent letter: "The ombudsman appears unusually reticent to deal with this issue fully and candidly. If Daniel Okrent cannot address direct criticism to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Gail Collins, Bill Keller, and Judith Miller, for their bungling of the WMD story in the lead up to the war, then this office is worthless. This is an ongoing issue, not ancient history. Deal with it."
On another front, so far the public editor has looked the other way in failing to comment on the damning recent statement by Sulzberger on the Miller/WMD controversy. It constituted an indictment of the way he, and Miller's editors, saw her role in covering WMD and the war from "the inside" (reported at E&P Online, March 22).
Sulzberger admitted that Miller's sources were wrong "absolutely." But then "the administration was wrong ... So I don't blame Judy Miller for the lack of finding weapons of mass destruction. I blame the administration for believing its own story line to such a point that they weren't prepared to question the authenticity of what they were told."
Well, if they weren't going to question themselves, wasn't it the role of the press to question them -- instead of so often acting as stenographers for inside sources and defectors? No one is blaming Miller for not finding WMD in Iraq (though she tried mightily while she was there), but rather for hyping their existence before and after the war. The Times too often swallowed the government's narrative on these weapons of mass disappearance.
And some high-placed intelligence analysts (not to mention other members of the media and vast numbers of the American public) surely believed in the authenticity of what the Times was telling them. One imagines a circle of blind animals, linked to one another: The Times tied to the tail of the government which was tied to the tail of Iraqi defectors who were tied to the tail of the Times.
Reporting from the other 'Times'
The latest investigative report by Bob Drogin and Greg Miller of the Los Angeles Times ("Iraqi Defector's Tales Bolstered U.S. Case for War") is about a now discredited source known as 'Curveball' who provided information that Saddam had built a fleet of trucks and railroad cars to produce anthrax and other deadly germs. (These were the "Winnebagos of Death" the Bush administration often warned about.) It turns out U.S. officials never even had direct access to the defector, a brother to one of Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmed Chalabi's top aides.
David Kay told the L.A. Times that of all the intelligence failures in Iraq, "this is the one that is the most damning." Curveball was an "out-and-out fabricator."
Chalabi says that he has been unfairly blamed for the failure to find germ warfare trucks, or any other unconventional weapons. He blames the CIA for hyping the threat. Since INC defectors were always tainted as partisans, he asked "60 Minutes" recently: "Why did the CIA believe them so much?" Or, one might add, why did The New York Times find them so credible so often?
Scandal dwarfs all others
It should be noted that Miller was gradually weaned from the WMD/Iraq beat after Keller took over in the summer of 2003. Moreover, several recent articles in the Times by Douglas Jehl and James Risen have focused on the role of defectors and exile groups in fooling U.S. intelligence agencies about the alleged presence of WMD in Iraq.
Journalistic ideals are very much alive in the Times' newsroom. Recently, responding to past columns in E&P, a reporter covering foreign policy at the paper sent me this message: "I share your concern about past wrongs, and remain determined to dig further."
Now Keller should revisit the reporting of Miller and some of her colleagues. To this day, the Times has not seen fit to acknowledge -- in editors' notes (like the one Keller himself co-wrote about the Wen Ho Lee debacle) or editorials or public editor columns -- the egg left on their collective faces from being suckered by highly suspect sources when reporting on WMD in 2002-03. This scandal dwarfs all others under the Gray Lady's skirts.
William E. Jackson Jr. has been covering this subject for E&P since last spring. He was executive director of President Jimmy Carter's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control, 1978-80. After affiliations with the Brookings Institution and the Fulbright Institute of International Relations, Jackson writes on national security issues from Davidson, N.C.
© 2004 VNU eMedia Inc.
Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Net Assessment
International Institute for Strategic Studies -- September 9, 2002
Baghdad Probably Still Has WMD Delivery Systems, Post Reports
Global Security Newswire -- September 5, 2002
Threat Assessment: States May Help Terrorists Attack U.S., CIA Director Says
Global Security Newswire -- March 20, 2002
U.S. Lacks Evidence of Iraqi Tie to Terrorism
Global Security Newswire -- February 6, 2002
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Remarks at Arrival Ceremony, Kuwait City International Airport
U.S. Department of State -- February 25, 2001
Saddam has nothing but rhetoric and shooting his mouth off.
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Press Briefing Abroad Aircraft En Route to Cairo, Egypt
U.S. Department of State -- February 23, 2001
I think it's important to point out that for the last 10 years, the policy that the United Nations, the United States has been following, has succeeded in keeping Iraq from rebuilding to the level that it was before. It's an army that's only one-third its original size. And even though they may be pursuing weapons of mass destruction of all kinds, it is not clear how successful they have been. So to some extent, I think we ought to declare this a success. We have kept him contained, kept him in his box.
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Press Remarks with Foreign Minister of Egypt Amre Moussa
U.S. Department of State -- February 4, 2001
We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions -- the fact that the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. ... And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.
[See also The Memory Hole.]
Bush Ordered Aid To Iraqi Military
Center for Nonproliferation Studies -- August 3, 1992