Pentagon in 2002 Found ‘No Reliable’ Iraq Arms Data (Update5)

June 6 (Bloomberg) – A U.S. Defense Department report in September 2002 found “no reliable information” proving that Iraq had chemical weapons, even as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was saying the country had amassed stockpiles of the banned arms.

“There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or whether Iraq has – or will – establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities,” a report by the Defense Intelligence Agency said in a summary page obtained by Bloomberg News.

The unreleased report said Iraq “probably” had stockpiles of banned chemicals, a more tentative conclusion than Rumsfeld was presenting in public. Iraq has “amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, sarin and mustard gas,” he told Congress on Sept. 19.

The page from the report suggests “substantially more uncertainty than was stated by senior administration officials,” said Kenneth Katzman, a specialist on Iraq's military for the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, who was told of the contents by Bloomberg.

The summary “mischaracterizes” a report that backs the administration, said Michael Anton, a White House spokesman. “The report as a whole is fully consistent with the public case on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs that has been made by the president, this administration, prior presidents, the United Nations and other governments,” Anton said.

No banned weapons have been found in Iraq. U.S. and U.K. lawmakers are demanding to know more about the intelligence cited as a reason for invading the Middle East country in March.

Biological Weapons

The Defense Intelligence Agency's uncertainty about Iraqi weapons extended to germ warfare programs, the summary suggests. “Iraq is assessed to possess biological agent stockpiles that may be weaponized and ready for use,” its report said. “The size of those stockpiles is uncertain and is subject to debate. The nature and condition of those stockpiles also are unknown.”

“The DIA report suggests that before the Iraq War, the U.S. intelligence community did not have hard evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed large stocks of chemical and biological warfare agents that posed an imminent threat to U.S. national security,” said Jonathan Tucker, a senior research fellow at the U.S. Institute for Peace and a former United Nations arms inspector, when informed of the summary page contents by Bloomberg.

The Defense Intelligence Agency's findings in the report, “Iraq: Key Weapons Facilities – An Operational Support Study,” are similar to those of other DIA reports on Iraq's suspect weapons programs, a U.S. military intelligence official said.

Existence of the study was disclosed by U.S. News & World Report in its June 9 edition.

Blix Criticizes U.S. Data

Hans Blix, the UN chief arms inspector, criticized the U.S. and U.K. intelligence about Iraq's banned weapons after his team found nothing in following up leads at suspected sites.

“Only in three of those cases did we find anything at all, and in none were there any weapons of mass destruction, and that shook me a bit, I must say,” Blix said on British Broadcasting Corp. radio today. “I thought: My God, if this is the best intelligence they have and we find nothing, what about the rest?” Blix gave the UN his final report yesterday.

Scott Ritter, an American who headed UN arms inspection teams from 1991 to 1998, said in an interview today with Switzerland's daily Le Temps that the U.S. and the U.K. should admit they lied about Iraqi weapons. Ritter said the allies haven't found evidence of biological, chemical or nuclear arms “because it's impossible to find something that doesn't exist.”

Judgments Defended

Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials say the weapons will be found after the allies locate people from Hussein's regime who know where they're hidden. Some officials, including Rumsfeld, have said Hussein may have shipped the weapons out of Iraq or destroyed them.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said yesterday that agency director George Tenet stands by his Feb. 12 statement to Congress that “stockpiles of things he (Hussein) has not declared and weapons he has not declared” will be found.

U.S. defense officials on Wednesday defended pre-war judgments, including those in the September 2002 report, as consistent with statements by officials in the administration of President George W. Bush's predecessor, President Bill Clinton.

“It's pretty clear that the intelligence judgments concerning Iraq weapons of mass destruction did not undergo a major change between the Clinton and Bush administrations,” Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith told reporters at a Pentagon press conference in Arlington, Virginia.

CIA Review

The CIA is reviewing pre-war assessments to determine whether it overstated the Iraqi threat in response to Pentagon “hawks” who favored war, the New York Times reported Wednesday. The Washington Post said yesterday some CIA analysts felt pressure from Vice President Dick Cheney and his top aide, Lewis Libby. Cheney's office declined to comment, the Post said.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Tony Blair is under pressure to produce evidence underpinning his assertions that Iraq possessed weapons that justified going to war. Blair said yesterday that he would produce “all” that evidence and he repeated denials that he embellished it.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Feb. 5 gave the United Nations transcripts of intercepted telephone and radio communications, satellite photographs and statements from Iraqi defectors that he said proved Iraq had an active program of banned- weapons production. The war began six weeks later.

The Pentagon's 2002 report said “although we lack any direct information, Iraq probably possesses chemical munitions, possibly including artillery shells, aerial bombs and ballistic missile warheads.” Iraq retained all chemicals and equipment to make “blister agent mustard,” the report said.

Iraq's ability to make nerve agents such as VX “is constrained by its stockpile of key chemical precursors and the destruction of all known CW production facilities during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and during subsequent UN inspections,” the Pentagon report said.

Last Updated: June 6, 2003 12:37 EDT