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OBSERVER: US officials knew in May Iraq possessed no WMD

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  • D Mitrovic
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1136314,00.html US officials knew in May Iraq possessed no WMD Blair comes under pressure as
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2004
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      US officials knew in May Iraq possessed no WMD

      Blair comes under pressure as Americans admit it was
      widely known that Saddam had no chemical arsenal

      Peter Beaumont, Gaby Hinsliff and Paul Harris

      Sunday February 1, 2004
      The Observer (London)

      Senior American officials concluded at the beginning
      of last May that there were no weapons of mass
      destruction (WMD) in Iraq, The Observer has learnt.
      Intelligence sources, policy makers and weapons
      inspectors familiar with the details of the hunt for
      WMD told The Observer it was widely known that Iraq
      had no WMD within three weeks of Baghdad falling,
      despite the assertions of senior Bush administration
      figures and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

      The new revelation came as White House sources
      indicated that President George Bush was considering
      establishing an investigation into the intelligence,
      despite rejecting an inquiry the previous day.

      The disclosure that US military survey teams sent to
      visit suspected sites of WMD, and intelligence
      interviews with Iraqi scientists and officials, had
      concluded so quickly that no major weapons or
      facilities would be found is certain to produce
      serious new embarrassment on both sides of the

      According to the time-line provided by the US sources,
      it would mean that Number 10 would have been aware of
      the US doubts that weapons would be found before the
      outbreak of the feud between Number 10 and Andrew
      Gilligan, and before the exposure of Dr David Kelly as
      Gilligan's source for his claims that the September
      dossier had been 'sexed up' to exaggerate the Iraqi

      It would suggest too that some officials who defended
      the 24 September dossier in evidence before the Hutton
      inquiry did so in the knowledge that the pre-war
      intelligence was probably wrong. Indeed, comments from
      a senior Washington official first casting serious
      doubt on the existence of WMD were put to Downing
      Street by The Observer - and rejected - as early as 3

      Among those interviewed by The Observer was a very
      senior US intelligence official serving during the war
      against Iraq with an intimate knowledge of the search
      for Iraq's WMD.

      'We had enough evidence at the beginning of May to
      start asking, "where did we go wrong?",' he said last
      week. 'We had already made the judgment that something
      very wrong had happened [in May] and our confidence
      was shaken to its foundations.'

      The source, a career intelligence official who spoke
      on condition of anonymity, was also scathing about the
      massive scale of the failure of intelligence over Iraq
      both in the US and among its foreign allies - alleging
      that the intelligence community had effectively
      suppressed dissenting views and intelligence.

      The claim is confirmed by other sources, as well as
      figures like David Albright, a former UN nuclear
      inspector with close contacts in both the world of
      weapons inspection and intelligence.

      'It was known in May,' Albright said last week, 'that
      no one was going to find large stockpiles of chemical
      and biological weapons. The only people who did not
      know that fact was the public.'

      The new disclosure follows the claims last week by Dr
      David Kay, the former head of the Iraq Survey Group, a
      hawk who believed Iraq retained prohibited weapons,
      that he now believed that the alleged stockpiles 'had
      never existed'.

      It also comes as the House and Senate intelligence
      committees, which have been hearing evidence on why no
      weapons have been found, prepare to publish their
      reports this month.

      Although it is expected that they will conclude that
      there was no political interference in the
      intelligence process, as some critics have alleged,
      the reports are expected to be damning about the
      quality of the intelligence that led to war.

      The revelation is likely to lead to increased pressure
      both in Britain and the United States for an inquiry
      into the intelligence marshalled in favour of war.

      In recent weeks Bush has come under concerted pressure
      over the issue, with Democratic presidential
      candidates accusing both him and Vice-President Dick
      Cheney of manipulating pre-war intelligence to make
      the case for invasion.

      White House sources said that President Bush is
      considering the formation of an independent panel to
      investigate pre-war intelligence on Iraq that he used
      to justify going to war.

      Aides are discussing it with congressional officials,
      sources familiar with the discussions said last night.

      Bush had rejected an independent investigation amid
      White House fears of a political witch-hunt by
      Democrats hoping to unseat him in elections this year,
      but began in recent days to reconsider the position.

      'I want the American people to know that I, too, want
      to know the facts,' Bush told reporters on Friday.

      The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said
      a range of options for such a panel was being explored
      and that an agreement was hoped for soon.

      The White House would not comment.

      Arizona Republican Senator John McCain broke party
      ranks to join Democratic demands for an independent
      probe into how US intelligence got it wrong, given the
      failure by searchers to find weapons of mass


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