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White House 'Exaggerating Iraqi Threat'

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 756 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... WHITE HOUSE EXAGGERATING IRAQI THREAT By Julian
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 10, 2002
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      By Julian Borger in Washington
      The Guardian
      Wednesday October 9, 2002


      President Bush's case against Saddam Hussein, outlined in a televised
      address to the nation on Monday night, relied on a slanted and sometimes
      entirely false reading of the available US intelligence, government
      officials and analysts claimed yesterday.

      Officials in the CIA, FBI and energy department are being put under intense
      pressure to produce reports which back the administration's line, the
      Guardian has learned. In response, some are complying, some are resisting
      and some are choosing to remain silent.

      "Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level
      pronouncements and there's a lot of unhappiness about it in intelligence,
      especially among analysts at the CIA," said Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA's
      former head of counter-intelligence.

      In his address, the president reassured Americans that military action was
      not "imminent or unavoidable", but he made the most detailed case to date
      for the use of force, should it become necessary.

      But some of the key allegations against the Iraqi regime were not supported
      by intelligence currently available to the administration. Mr Bush repeated
      a claim already made by senior members of his administration that Iraq has
      attempted to import hardened aluminium tubes "for gas centrifuges, which are
      used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons". The tubes were also mentioned
      by Tony Blair in his dossier of evidence presented to parliament last month.

      However, US government experts on nuclear weapons and centrifuges have
      suggested that they were more likely to be used for making conventional

      "I would just say there is not much support for that [nuclear] theory around
      here," said a department of energy specialist.

      David Albright, a physicist and former UN weapons inspector who was
      consulted on the purpose of the aluminium tubes, said it was far from clear
      that the tubes were intended for a uranium centrifuge.

      Mr Albright, who heads the Institute for Science and International Security,
      a Washington thinktank, said: "There's a catfight going on about this right
      now. On one side you have most of the experts on gas centrifuges. On the
      other you have one guy sitting in the CIA."

      Mr Albright said sceptics at the energy department's Lawrence Livermore
      national laboratory in California had been ordered to keep their doubts to
      themselves. He quoted a colleague at the laboratory as saying: "The
      administration can say what it wants and we are expected to remain silent."

      There is already considerable scepticism among US intelligence officials
      about Mr Bush's claims of links between Iraq and al-Qaida. In his speech on
      Monday, Mr Bush referred to a "very senior al-Qaida leader who received
      medical treatment in Baghdad this year".

      An intelligence source said the man the president was referring to was Abu
      Musab Zarqawi, who was arrested in Jordan in 2001 for his part in the
      "millennium plot" to bomb tourist sites there. He was subsequently released
      and eventually made his way to Iraq in search of treatment. However,
      intercepted telephone calls did not mention any cooperation with the Iraqi

      There is also profound scepticism among US intelligence experts about the
      president's claim that "Iraq has trained al-Qaida members in bomb-making and
      poisons and deadly gases".

      Bob Baer, a former CIA agent who tracked al-Qaida's rise, said that there
      were contacts between Osama bin Laden and the Iraqi government in Sudan in
      the early 1990s and in 1998: "But there is no evidence that a strategic
      partnership came out of it. I'm unaware of any evidence of Saddam pursuing
      terrorism against the United States."

      A source familiar with the September 11 investigation said: "The FBI has
      been pounded on to make this link."

      In making his case on Monday, Mr Bush made a startling claim that the Iraqi
      regime was developing drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which
      "could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad

      "We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for
      missions targeting the United States," he warned.

      US military experts confirmed that Iraq had been converting eastern European
      trainer jets, known as L-29s, into drones, but said that with a maximum
      range of a few hundred miles they were no threat to targets in the US.

      "It doesn't make any sense to me if he meant United States territory," said
      Stephen Baker, a retired US navy rear admiral who assesses Iraqi military
      capabilities at the Washington-based Centre for Defence Information.

      Mr Cannistraro said the flow of intelligence to the top levels of the
      administration had been deliberately skewed by hawks at the Pentagon.

      "CIA assessments are being put aside by the defence department in favour of
      intelligence they are getting from various Iraqi exiles," he said.
      "Machiavelli warned princes against listening to exiles. Well, that is what
      is happening now."


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