Post-9-11 events and analyses
Monday, October 04, 2004
How the White House Embraced Disputed Arms Intelligence
: Long chilling story of the manipulation of intelligence to support the war preference of Bush and Cheney. "In 2002, at a crucial juncture on the path to war, senior members of the Bush administration gave a series of speeches and interviews in which they asserted that Saddam Hussein was rebuilding his nuclear weapons program. Speaking to a group of Wyoming Republicans in September, Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States now had "irrefutable evidence" - thousands of tubes made of high-strength aluminum, tubes that the Bush administration said were destined for clandestine Iraqi uranium centrifuges, before some were seized at the behest of the United States.
Those tubes became a critical exhibit in the administration's brief against Iraq. As the only physical evidence the United States could brandish of Mr. Hussein's revived nuclear ambitions, they gave credibility to the apocalyptic imagery invoked by President Bush and his advisers. The tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs," Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, explained on CNN on Sept. 8, 2002. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
But almost a year before, Ms. Rice's staff had been told that the government's foremost nuclear experts seriously doubted that the tubes were for nuclear weapons, according to four officials at the Central Intelligence Agency and two senior administration officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. The experts, at the Energy Department, believed the tubes were likely intended for small artillery rockets.
The White House, though, embraced the disputed theory that the tubes were for nuclear centrifuges, an idea first championed in April 2001 by a junior analyst at the C.I.A. Senior nuclear scientists considered that notion implausible, yet in the months after 9/11, as the administration built a case for confronting Iraq, the centrifuge theory gained currency as it rose to the top of the government." 11:55:56 PM
US arms exports poorly controlled, 'blowback' feared: "The United States is failing to safeguard much of the highly sought weaponry it sends abroad - from assault rifles to sophisticated combat technology, a review by The Denver Post concludes. Lax oversight of weapons exports opens the door for adversaries to get their hands on lethal missiles, assault guns and components for larger weapons systems, sources say.
Homeland Security agents recently have uncovered plots to divert night-vision lenses to Iran, fighter-jet parts to China, grenade launchers to Colombian guerrillas, nuclear triggers to Pakistan, and more. And despite internal warnings, government-sanctioned sales worth more than $10 billion a year continue spreading more weapons worldwide. Congressional leaders [incl Sen. Feinstein] are promising legislation. ..
Homeland Security agents investigating illegal dealing say sophisticated weaponry probably already has reached adversaries. Total arrests for illegal arms dealing doubled from 62 in 2002 to 125 last year. Customs agents last year made 665 seizures of arms worth $106 million. ..
Overall, State and Defense department regulators last year approved more than 49,500 deals involving all types of weapons without full review - let alone monitoring and inspection abroad, documents show. Arms deals are screened by staffers who process electronic applications but generally lack time and expertise to conduct detailed investigations of buyers and sellers. Even in cases where an application is flagged for closer scrutiny, the most detailed reviews seldom involve inspections.
Last year, State Department officials charged with overseeing private-company deals selected 413 for more careful review, though still not inspections to verify where weapons are and how they are used.These targeted reviews found irregularities with 76, or 18.4 percent, of those deals. That's the highest percentage ever, up from 11 percent, or 50, of the deals reviewed in 2002, State Department documents said. The 413 reviews interrupted a plan to move firearms to a criminal in Central America, sales of helicopter parts to a hostile country, and misuse of electronics and communications equipment sent to Asia, records show. Details were omitted. State Department supervisors said 32 inspectors - including contract employees - must process applications for some 50,000 commercial arms deals each year." 11:32:42 PM
Rumsfeld: No evidence of al-Qaida-Iraq link -- then, oops: "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday that he knew of no “strong, hard evidence” linking Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaida, despite describing extensive contacts between the two before the invasion of Iraq. During a question-and-answer session before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Rumsfeld was asked to explain the connection between Saddam and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, which is blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. .. “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two. I just read an intelligence report recently about one person who’s connected to al-Qaida who was in and out of Iraq. And it is the most tortured description of why he might have had a relationship and why he might not have had a relationship. It may have been something that was not representative of a hard linkage.” ..
Before the war, U.S. officials spoke of Iraq’s already possessing weapons of mass destruction, not a potential for gathering them. “It turns out that we have not found weapons of mass destruction,” Rumsfeld said." More quotes on Electablog. But, after this appearance, he issued a statement from the Pentagon: "I have acknowledged since September 2002 that there were ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq. This assessment was based upon points provided to me by then CIA Director George Tenet to describe the CIA's understanding of the Al Qaeda-Iraq relationship." Mostly non-denial. See also Steve Clemons. 10:38:00 PM