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January 2004


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Thu, 8 Jan 2004 01:29:59 -0500 (EST)
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Interesting article about the search for WOMDs in Iraq ending, with surprise, surprise, nothing found.


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Arms Search: U.S. Withdraws a Team of Weapons Hunters From Iraq

January 8, 2004


WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 - The Bush administration has quietly
withdrawn from Iraq a 400-member military team whose job
was to scour the country for military equipment, according
to senior government officials. 

The step was described by some military officials as a sign
that the administration might have lowered its sights and
no longer expected to uncover the caches of chemical and
biological weapons that the White House cited as a
principal reason for going to war last March. 

A separate military team that specializes in disposing of
chemical and biological weapons remains part of the
1,400-member Iraq Survey Group, which has been searching
Iraq for more that seven months at a cost of hundreds of
millions of dollars. But that team is "still waiting for
something to dispose of," said a survey group member. 

Some of the government officials said the most important
evidence from the weapons hunt might be contained in a vast
collection of seized Iraqi documents being stored in a
secret military warehouse in Qatar. Only a small fraction
have been translated. 

A report published Wednesday in The Washington Post cited a
previously undisclosed document that suggested that Iraq
might have destroyed its biological weapons as early as
1991. The report said investigators had otherwise found no
evidence to support American beliefs that Iraq had
maintained illicit weapons dating from the Persian Gulf war
of 1991 or that it had advanced programs to build new ones.

The report also documented a pattern of deceit that was
found in every field of special weaponry. It said that
according to Iraqi designers and foreign investigators,
program managers exaggerated the results they could
achieve, or even promised results they knew they could not
accomplish - all in an effort to appease Saddam Hussein. In
some cases, though, they simply did it to advance their
careers, the report said, or preserve jobs or even conduct
intrigues against their rivals. 

Senior intelligence officials acknowledged in recent days
that the weapons hunters still had not found weapons or
active programs, but in interviews, they said the search
must continue to ensure that no hidden Iraqi weapons
surfaced in a future attack. 

"We worry about what may have happened to those weapons,"
Stuart Cohen, the vice chairman of the National
Intelligence Council, said in an interview broadcast late
Tuesday on the ABC News program "Nightline." "Theories
abound as to what may have happened." 

The search for Iraqi weapons remains "the primary focus" of
the survey group, a senior Defense Department official
said. But he acknowledged that most of the dozens of new
linguists and intelligence analysts to join the team had
recently been given assignments related to combating the
Iraqi insurgency rather than to the weapons search. 

David Kay, the head of the survey group, made it known last
month that he might leave his post. Government officials
said Wednesday that he had not reached a decision but that
both he and his top deputy, Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton of the
Defense Intelligence Agency, were in Washington, in part to
discuss what direction the hunt should take. 

"I am sure that if they had found important evidence, we
would know about it," said Representative Jane Harman of
California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence
Committee, who has said the administration exaggerated the
Iraqi threat. 

Bill Harlow, the top spokesman for the Central Intelligence
Agency, said Wednesday that "the team needs to compete its
work, and no one should jump to any conclusions before it
has an opportunity to examine all of the circumstances." 

American intelligence officials who described the seized
documents said they hoped the documents might eventually
help to unravel the mystery of whether Iraqi weapons
remained hidden or whether they were destroyed long before
what the Bush administration initially portrayed as a
mission "to disarm Iraq." 

In the television interview, Mr. Cohen, who as vice
chairman of the National Intelligence Council led the team
that formally concluded in October 2002 that Iraq possessed
both chemical and biological weapons, insisted that "it is
too soon to close the books on this case." 

A report to be released Thursday by the Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace has concluded that it was unlikely
that Iraq could have destroyed, hidden or sent out of the
country the hundreds of tons of chemical and biological
weapons and related production facilities that American
officials claimed were present "without the United States
detecting some sign of this activity." 

Through their spokesmen, Dr. Kay and General Dayton have
declined repeated requests for interviews. 

The cache of Iraqi documents cover subjects extending far
beyond illicit weapons, according to senior military
officials, and are so voluminous that, if stacked, they
would rise 10 miles high, according to estimates by senior
government officials. 

The warehouse in Qatar has become the center of work by the
Defense Intelligence Agency to translate and analyze the
documents, the officials said. 

The 400-member team withdrawn from Iraq, known as the Joint
Captured Matériel Exploitation Group, was primarily
composed of technical experts and was headed by an
Australian brigadier, Defense Department officials said.
Its work included searching weapons depots and other sites
for missile launchers that might have been used with
illicit weapons, the officials said, and it was withdrawn
"because its work was essentially done." 

"They picked up everything that was worth picking up," one
official said. The weapons disposal team still in place,
known as Task Force D/E, for disablement and elimination,
has been used to collect suspicious material, although none
has proved to be part of any illicit weapons program. 

In an interim report in October, Dr. Kay acknowledged that
his team had failed to find illicit weapons or active
weapons programs in Iraq, but said they had discovered
evidence that Mr. Hussein intended to develop such weapons
and might have retained the capacity to do so. 

Dr. Kay has not said when he intended to issue his next
report, and that remains a subject of debate within the
administration, government officials said. 

American intelligence officials, including Mr. Cohen, have
vigorously defended their estimates of Iraq's weapons
program, saying the evidence was strong, credible and
backed up by a number of sources. But staff members of the
Senate and House intelligence agencies are preparing
reports suggesting that the administration and intelligence
agencies had seriously overestimated the nature of the
threat posed by illicit Iraqi weapons. 

Ms. Harman said in a telephone interview that she expected
that Dr. Kay, appointed last June 11 as a special adviser
to George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence,
was probably stepping down, a development that she said
would be "very disappointing." 

"I have to believe that if they were about to pounce on a
large stockpile of chemical or biological weapons, he would
be there for the announcement," Ms. Harman said.


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