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Complete timeline of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: Aluminum tubes allegation

 
  

Project: Inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq

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After the 1950s

       The use of aluminum for rotors in gas centrifuges is discontinued. Other materials, such as maraging steel and carbon fiber, are used instead. [Washington Post, 8/10/03]
          

1950s

       The first “Zippe-type” gas centrifuge, named after one of its main developers, German scientist Gernot Zippe, is produced. The centrifuge uses duralumin rotors. Centrifuge rotors are thin-walled tubes that spin at high speeds producing enriched uranium 235. Centrifuge rotors are highly sensitive and must be made from specialized high-strength material. [Institute for Science and International Security, 9/23/2002]
People and organizations involved: Gernot Zippe
          

Mid-1980s-late 1990s

       Joe T., an engineer, begins working for the CIA. [Washington Post, 8/10/03 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors]
People and organizations involved: Joe T.
          

Early 1980s

       At this time, an engineer named “Joe T.,” is working in the gas centrifuge program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. His work pertains not to actual centrifuges, but to the platforms upon which the centrifuges are installed. [Washington Post, 8/10/03; World Net Daily, 8/12/03 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors]
People and organizations involved: Joe T.
          

(Late 1980s)

       Iraq begins developing “Zippe-type” centrifuges (see 1950s). The centrifuges use rotors made from maraging steel and carbon fiber, which are more advanced than aluminum and allow the rotor to spin at significantly higher speeds. But Iraq has problems building them—even with considerable assistance from German experts. [Institute for Science and International Security, 9/23/2002]
          

(1999)

       Joe T. begins working in the Winpac unit of the CIA, which analyzes intelligence related to dual-use technology and export controls. [Washington Post, 8/10/03; World Net Daily, 8/12/03; New York Times, 10/3/2004 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors]
People and organizations involved: Joe T.
          

2000

       US intelligence learns from the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) that Iraq has made arrangements to purchase tubes, made of 7075-T6 aluminum, from China through Garry Cordukes, the director of the Australian company International Aluminum Supply. The company is associated with Kam Kiu Propriety Limited, a subsidiary of the Chinese company that will manufacture the aluminum tubes. Concerned that the tubes may be related to Iraqi efforts to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program, an Australian intelligence agent contacts Cordukes to obtain a sample of the tubes for examination. A CIA agent, Joe T., is said to have played a significant part in this discovery. [Washington Post, 8/10/03; Australian Broadcasting Corporation Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors]
People and organizations involved: Joe T.
          

(Mid-July 2001)-August 17, 2001

       Almost immediately after Joe T.'s theory is circulated through US intelligence and science circles, a team of centrifuge physicists at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other similar institutions review the case. [Washington Post, 8/10/03; Australian Broadcasting Corporation; New York Times, 10/3/2004] The team includes Dr. Jon A. Kreykes, head of Oak Ridge's national security advanced technology group; Dr. Duane F. Starr, an expert on nuclear proliferation threats; and Dr. Edward Von Halle, a retired Oak Ridge nuclear expert. They are advised by Dr. Houston G. Wood III, a retired Oak Ridge physicist considered to be “among the most eminent living experts” on centrifuges, and Dr. Gernot Zippe, one of the German scientists who developed an early uranium centrifuge in the 1950s (see 1950s). On August 17, the team publishes a classified Technical Intelligence Note which details why they believe the 7075-T6 aluminum tubes sought by Iraq were not intended for use in a gas centrifuge. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
The tubes sought by Iraq are very different from tubes Iraq used previously in its centrifuge prototypes before the first Gulf War. The intercepted aluminum tubes are significantly longer and narrower. [Washington Post, 8/10/03; New York Times, 10/3/2004]

Aluminum has not been used in gas centrifuges since the 1950s (see After the 1950s). Furthermore, Iraq is known to have had the blueprints for a more efficient centrifuge, which used maraging steel and carbon fiber, not aluminum (see (Late 1980s)). [Washington Post, 8/10/03]
“Aluminum was a huge step backwards,” Dr. Houston Wood will later explain to the New York Times. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
There are no known centrifuge machines “deployed in a production environment” that use tubes with such a small diameter. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]

The tubes' walls, measuring 3.3 millimeters, are three times too thick for “favorable use” in a “Zippe-type” centrifuge, which requires tubes with a thickness of no more than 1.1 millimeter. [New York Times, 10/3/2004; Washington Post, 8/10/03]

The tubes are anodized, which is “not consistent” with a uranium centrifuge because the anodized coating can react with uranium gas. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
Houston G. Wood later tells The Washington Post in mid-2003 that “it would have been extremely difficult to make these tubes into centrifuges,” adding that it stretched “the imagination to come up with a way.” [Washington Post, 8/10/03] Though the scientists' report concludes that “rocket production is the much more likely end use for these tubes,” [New York Times, 10/3/2004] Joe T. sticks with his theory. His position is backed by CIA director George Tenet. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation]
People and organizations involved: George Tenet, Joe T., Gernot Zippe, Houston G. Wood III, Edward Von Halle, Jon A. Kreykes, Duane F. Starr
          

Between April 2001 and September 2002

       The CIA writes at least 15 reports about Iraq's interest in purchasing 7075-T6 aluminum tubes. Several of the assessments are distributed only to high-level policy makers, including President Bush, and are not sent to other intelligence agencies for peer review. According to several Congressional and intelligence officials who later review the documents, they all fail to note that the opinions of leading centrifuge experts at the Energy Department conflict with the CIA's view. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

April 10, 2001

       A classified intelligence report, based primarily on the work of junior CIA analyst Joe T., concludes that the 7075-T6 aluminum tubes sought by Iraq from China (see 2000)“have little use other than for a uranium enrichment program.” The report is passed on to the White House. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: Joe T.
          

April 11, 2001

       US officials in the Energy Department respond to an intelligence report released the previous day (see April 10, 2001) which contended that the aluminum tubes sought by Iraq (see July 2001) are destined for use as centrifuge rotors in a uranium enrichment program. The Energy Department argues that the tubes are too narrow, too heavy, and too long to be used in a gas centrifuge. Furthermore, the officials note, there is no evidence that Iraq is seeking to acquire other materials that would be needed to construct a centrifuge. And if the Iraqis intend to use the tubes for uranium enrichment, they ask, why are they making no effort to conceal their interest in acquiring the tubes? [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: Department of Energy (DOE)
          

May 9, 2001

       The Energy Department reports that the 7075-T6 aluminum tubes being sought by Iraq from China (see July 2001) have the same specifications as tubes previously used by Iraq to produce conventional rocket tubes. The findings are published in the department's classified Daily Intelligence Highlight, which is posted on an intranet network accessible by members of the intelligence community and the White House. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: Department of Energy (DOE)
          

May 23, 2001

       A container shipment of 3,000 7075-T6 aluminum tubes manufactured in China leaves southern China for Hong Kong on a slow barge. From there the shipment will go to Jordan. The tubes' final destination is Iraq. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation]
          

May 25, 2001

       The Chinese government contacts a Chinese aluminum manufacturer that has just filled an order for 3,000 7075-T6 aluminum tubes, which is now on its way to Iraq. The company is told that the US government has a special interest in the order and is determined to prevent the shipment from reaching its destination. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation Sources: Garry Cordukes]
          

July 2001

       The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) obtains a few samples of the 7075-T6 aluminum tubes that were seized by the CIA and Jordanian secret service. They examine the tubes and initially are quite skeptical that the Iraqis intended to use them as rotors in a gas centrifuge. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] Later this month, CIA agent Joe T. flies to Vienna and presents his case to the IAEA. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation; New York Times, 10/3/2004 Sources: Andrew Wilkie, Jacques Bautes] But experts at the agency disagree with his conclusions and explain to him why the believe his analysis is wrong. “They pointed out errors in his calculations. They noted design discrepancies,” an unnamed senior US official will later tell the New York Times. [New York Times, 10/3/2004 Sources: Unnamed US official] David Albright, a physicist and former weapons inspector, who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, similarly explains to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “The view in Vienna in the summer of 2001 was ‘Maybe this guy has a clever idea, but he really is just grabbing at almost straws to prove his case, and when he's debunked in one model, he then shifts it and tries to make his information fit another centrifuge model.’ And yet whenever you confronted him with the facts or the weaknesses in argument, he always came back with the same answer— ‘It's only for centrifuges.’ ” When Joe T. returns to Washington, he tells his superiors at the CIA that the IAEA agrees with his theory. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] But according to an unnamed senior US official, scientists at the IAEA send a summary of their views on the tubes to the US government. [New York Times, 10/3/2004 Sources: Unnamed US official]
People and organizations involved: Joe T.
          

(July 2001-March 2003)

       In meetings and telephone calls, CIA officials inform administration officials that experts at the Department of Energy do not believe that the aluminum tubes sought by Iraq are intended for use in a gas centrifuge. [New York Times, 10/3/2004 Sources: Unnamed Senior CIA official]
          

July 2001-2003

       Joe T. maintains his claim that the 7075-T6 aluminum tubes imported by Iraq but intercepted by the US in Jordan (see July 2001) were meant to be used as rotors in centrifuges. Joe T.'s theory becomes one of the most important components of the Bush administration's argument that Saddam Hussein is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. Despite significant criticisms of his theory from prominent experts in the field, Joe T. (see (Mid-July 2001)-August 17, 2001) (see September 23, 2002) (see December 2002) receives an award for exceptional performance from the CIA for his analysis of the intercepted aluminum tubes. [Washington Post, 8/10/03 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors]
People and organizations involved: Joe T.
          

July 2001

       Following leads from the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) (see 2000), a team of CIA agents and Jordanian secret police confiscate a shipment to 3,000 7075-T6 aluminum tubes in Jordan. The tubes had been purchased by a Jordanian front company, AT&C, on behalf of Iraq. [Washington Post, 8/10/03; Australian Broadcasting Corporation] It is later learned that Iraq's supply of rocket body casing tubes is depleted at about this time (see January 9, 2003) and that “[t]housands of warheads, motors and fins [are] ... crated at the assembly lines [in Iraq], awaiting the arrival of tubes.” [Washington Post, 8/10/03 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors] It is also later determined that the shipment of tubes is meant to replenish Iraq's supply of rocket casing tubes; they are not for Iraq's alleged nuclear weapons program.
          

(July 2001-March 2003)

       During briefings, intelligence analysts at CIA Winpac inform senior National Security Council officials who deal with nuclear proliferation issues that experts at the Department of Energy do not believe that the aluminum tubes sought by Iraq were intended for use in a gas centrifuge. [New York Times, 10/3/2004 Sources: Unnamed senior administration official, Four unnamed CIA officials]
          

Fall 2001

       Joe T., an analyst for the CIA, gives a presentation in Room 6526 of the State Department's Office of Strategic Proliferation on his theory that a confiscated shipment of 7075-T6 aluminum tubes destined for Iraq (see July 2001) had been intended for use in a gas centrifuge program. Present at the meeting is Greg Theilmann, head of the nuclear proliferation monitoring division at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, who is not at all impressed with Joe T.'s argument. “I found the presentation to be unpersuasive,” Thielmann later explains to Vanity Fair. “He seemed far more a man on a mission than an objective analyst. He had something to sell.” Also in attendance is a scientist from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory who also disagrees with Joe T.'s conclusions. [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 281]
People and organizations involved: Greg Thielmann, Joe T.
          

Late 2001

       Energy Department analysts publish a classified report disputing the theory that the 7075-T6 aluminum tubes sought by Iraq were intended to be used as rotors in a “Zippe-type” gas centrifuge. The report emphasizes that Zippe centrifuges are not suited for the production of nuclear bombs but rather had been designed for use in laboratory experiment. The Energy Department's experts also say that Iraq would need up to 16,000 of such centrifuges working in concert to produce enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb, which they note would be a challenge for even the most advanced centrifuge plants. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
          

Late 2001

       A small group of CIA agents, among them Joe T., flies to Canberra, Australia and meets with Australian intelligence officers from the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Defense Intelligence Organization (DIO) and the Office of National Assessments (ONA) at ASIO headquarters. The team of CIA officers presents what is later described as a compelling case that the aluminum tubes, which in July had been intercepted by the US in Jordan on their way to Iraq (see July 2001), had been intended for use as rotors in a gas centrifuge program. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation]
          

March 12, 2002

       Vice President Richard Cheney and other senior administration officials receive two CIA reports which cite the aluminum tubes sought by Iraq as evidence that “Iraq ... may be trying to reconstitute its gas centrifuge program.” Neither report mentions the fact that leading centrifuge experts at the Energy Department strongly disagree with the CIA's theory. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: Dick Cheney
          

Summer 2002

       Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz secretly meets with Francis Brooke, the Iraqi National Congress' lobbyist, and Khidir Hamza, the former chief of Iraq's nuclear program. Wolfowitz asks Hamza if he thinks the aluminum tubes (see July 2001) could be used in centrifuges. Hamza—who has never built a centrifuge and who is considered an unreliable source by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (see July 30, 2002) —looks at the tubes' specifications and concludes that the tubes are adaptable. Wolfowitz disseminates Hamza's assessment to several of his neoconservative colleagues who have posts in the administration. [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 281]
People and organizations involved: Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Brooke, Khidir Hamza
          

July 2002

       Australia's intelligence services report in a July 2002 assessment: “US agencies differ on whether aluminum tubes, a dual-use item sought by Iraq, were meant for gas centrifuges.” It adds that the tubes evidence is “patchy and inconclusive.” [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
          

(Early September 2002)

       Democratic senators begin pressing for a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. They want it completed before they vote on a resolution that would authorize the use of force against Iraq. Though NIEs usually take months to prepare, US intelligence services will finish the report by the beginning of the following month (see October 1, 2002). The last NIE on Iraq had been done in 2000. [New York Times, 10/3/2004; Independent, 11/3/03]
People and organizations involved: Joe T.
          

(After September 8, 2002)

       President George Bush and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice learn that Department of Energy scientists disagree (see (Mid-July 2001)-August 17, 2001) with the CIA's assessment (see July 2001-2003) that a shipment of aluminum tubes intercepted on their way to Iraq (see July 2001) were to be used in a uranium enrichment program. [New York Times, 10/3/2004 Sources: Two unnamed Bush administration officials]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, General Joseph Ralston
          

September 8, 2002

       When asked if Saddam Hussein presents a “clear and present danger” to the United States, Condoleezza Rice tells Wolf Blitzer on CNN's Late Edition there is [no doubt] that “the danger is gathering momentum.” “We do know that there have been shipments going ... into Iraq ... of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to—high-quality aluminum tools [sic] that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.” [CNN Late Night with Wolf Blitzer, 9/8/2002; New York Times, 7/20/2003; Iraq on the Record database, 3/16/2004]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice
          

September 8, 2002

       Dick Cheney says on NBC's “Meet the Press” : “We do know, with absolute certainty, that he [Saddam Hussein] is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment [aluminum tubes] he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.” [Washington Post, 2/7/03; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/27/03] During the appearance, he also says, flatly, that Saddam “has reconstituted his nuclear program to develop a nuclear weapon....” [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: Dick Cheney
          

(1:00am) September 8, 2002

       The New York Times publishes a front page story reporting that Iraq has attempted to obtain aluminum tubes which, US intelligence believes, were intended for use in a nuclear weapons program. The article—written by Times reporters Judith Miller and Michael Gordon—cites unnamed intelligence officials as its sources. “In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium,” reports the newspaper. “The diameter, thickness and other technical specifications of the aluminum tubes had persuaded American intelligence experts that they were meant for Iraq's nuclear program ....” The article does not say that experts at the Department of Energy do not believe the tubes were intended for use in a gas centrifuge. [New York Times, 9/8/2002] Houston G. Wood III, a retired Oak Ridge physicist who had filed a report with the US government more than a year before (see (Mid-July 2001)-August 17, 2001) concluding that the tubes were not meant for centrifuges, is shocked by the report. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation more than a year later, he will recount his initial reaction: “My first thought was, ‘This must be some new tubes’ , you know. And then...and then when I realized that these were the tubes that I had been looking at a year before, I was just ... I was ... I was just shocked. I couldn't believe that, you know, here we were, saying that these tubes were, you know, the same tubes that I'd come to the conclusion a year before were not valid for centrifuges, and here they're saying they are. So, er ... that was a real surprise.” [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/27/03]
People and organizations involved: Judith MIller, Michael Gordon, Houston G. Wood III
          

September 12, 2002

       In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, George Bush says: “Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons . . . Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon.” [The Age (Australia), 6/7/03]
          

September 13, 2002

       The New York Times publishes a second article reporting that the Bush administration believes a shipment of aluminum tubes destined for Iraq, intercepted in Jordan by US authorities in July (see July 2001), was intended for use in a gas centrifuge. Unlike The Times' previous report, this article mentions that there is a debate over the tubes between the Energy Department and CIA. It says that according to an unnamed official “[T]here have been debates among intelligence experts about Iraq's intentions in trying to buy such tubes.” The article says that the official claims “the dominant view in the administration was that the tubes were intended for use in gas centrifuges to enrich uranium.” Another official interviewed by the newspaper claims that Energy's alternative view “is a footnote, not a split.” One administration official is even quoted by the paper asserting “that the best technical experts and nuclear scientists at laboratories like Oak Ridge supported the CIA assessment.” [New York Times, 9/13/2002; New York Times, 10/3/2004] After the article is published, the Energy Department releases a directive forbidding employees from discussing the issue with reporters. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: Department of Energy (DOE)
          

September 23, 2002

       David Albright, a physicist who had investigated Iraq's nuclear weapons program following the 1991 Persian Gulf War as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspection team, concludes in a study that Iraq's attempt to import the tubes was not “evidence that Iraq [was] in possession of, or close to possessing, nuclear weapons” or that Iraq has an operating centrifuge plant. His assessment is based on several factors, including the fact that the tubes are made of an aluminum alloy that is ill-suited for welding. He notes that Iraq had used maraging steel and carbon fiber in its earlier attempts to make centrifuges (see (Late 1980s)). Albright also challenges the CIA's contention the tubes' anodized coating is an indication that they are meant to be used as rotors in a gas centrifuge. The nuclear physicist notes that the fact that the tubes are anodized actually supports the theory that they were meant to be used in rockets, not a centrifuge. He cites another expert who contended that an “anodized layer on the inside of the tube ... can result in hampering the operation of the centrifuge.” [Institute for Science and International Security, 9/23/2002 Sources: David Albright] Though Albright is critical of the charges being made by the Bush administration against Iraq, concerning nuclear weapons, he is no Saddam sympathizer. He believes that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and advocates a tough stance towards his regime. [New York Review of Books, 2/26/04] His report is widely dispersed and is reported in detail by The Washington Post on September 19, 2002. Several other newspapers also cover Albright's report. [Washington Post, 9/19/02; Guardian, 10/9/02; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/02] It is later revealed that scientists at the Energy Department secretly worked with Albright on the report. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: David Albright
          

September 24, 2002

       The British government releases its now-infamous dossier on Saddam's unconventional weapons capabilities. In the section discussing Iraq's alleged nuclear weapons program, the document notes: “[T]here is no definitive intelligence evidence that [the specialized aluminum] is destined for a nuclear program.” [British Government, 9/24/02]
          

Late September 2002

       The CIA distributes a classified report on the case of the aluminum tubes to policymakers. The report, the agency's most detailed to date, acknowledges for the first time that “some in the intelligence community” have argued that the tubes were likely intended to be used in the production of conventional rockets, not gas centrifuges. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
          

October 1, 2002

       The National Intelligence Council, a board of senior analysts who prepare reports on crucial national security issues, completes a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. The purpose of an NIE is to provide policy-makers with an intelligence assessment that includes all available information on a specific issue so that they can make sound policy decisions. The formal document is supposed to be the result of a collaborative effort of the entire intelligence community and is supposed to be untainted by political interests. The decision to produce the assessment on Iraq followed criticisms that the administration had already decided to invade Iraq without having received—or even called for—an assessment from its multi-billion dollar intelligence apparatus on the supposed threat posed by Iraq. Congress wanted the NIE completed prior to voting on a bill authorizing the President to use force against Iraq and was formally requested by Senator Bob Graham. NIEs such as this usually take months to prepare, however this document took a mere three weeks. The person in charge of preparing the document was weapons expert Robert Walpole. According to the Independent of London, Walpole has a track record of tailoring his work to support the preconceived conclusions of his superiors. “In 1998, he had come up with an estimate of the missile capabilities of various rogue states that managed to sound considerably more alarming than a previous CIA estimate issued three years earlier,” the newspaper will report. “On that occasion, he was acting at the behest of a congressional commission anxious to make the case for a missile defense system; the commission chairman was none other than Donald Rumsfeld ....” [Independent, 11/3/03; New York Times, 10/3/2004]
Summary of NIE Conclusions - After the document is completed, two different versions will be released. An abridged declassified version is posted on the CIA's website for the public, while the classified version is disseminated within the administration and to Congress (see (8:00pm) October 1, 2002). The two versions portray the threat posed by Saddam Hussein very differently. The classified version of the NIE on Iraq provides a far less alarmist view of the threat allegedly posed by Iraq than that which is presented in the public version of the document. According to US intelligence and congressional sources who read the classified document, the intelligence estimate contains “cautionary language about Iraq's connections with al-Qaeda and warnings about the reliability of conflicting reports by Iraqi defectors and captured al-Qaeda members about the ties.” And notably, the second paragraph of the “key judgment” section states that the estimate lacks “specific information” on Iraq's alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Though the document does say that Iraq probably has chemical and biological weapons, it also says that US intelligence analysts believe that Saddam Hussein would only launch an attack against the US if he felt a US invasion was inevitable. The intelligence estimate also concludes that Saddam would only provide terrorists with chemical or biological agents for use against the United States as a last resort in order to “exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him.” A senior intelligence official will later tell The Washington Post in June 2003: “There has always been an internal argument within the intelligence community about the connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. The NIE had alternative views.” The NIE also concludes that Iraq does not have nuclear weapons. The public version of the report—which is presented to Congress before it votes on a resolution conditionally authorizing Bush to use military force against Iraq—contains language that is far less qualified and nuanced than the classified version. [Washington Post, 6/22/03; Agence France Presse, 11/30/03 Sources: Stuart Cohen, US intelligence and congressional sources, INR's alternative view in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq]

Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Africa - The document makes a reference to the allegation that Iraq has sought to procure uranium from Africa. “A foreign government service reported that as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of ‘pure uranium’ (probably yellowcake) to Iraq. As of early 2001, Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake. We do not know the status of this arrangement. Reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” But the alternative view—endorsed by the State Department's bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR)—says that it is doubtful Iraq sought to procure uranium from Africa. “(T)he claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR's assessment, highly dubious,” it reads. [US Government, 10/02; Washington Post, 7/19/03 Sources: Wissam al-Zahawie]

Iraqi attempts to obtain aluminum tubes - The document provides a very misleading assessment of the tubes case. For instance, it includes a chart which compares the dimensions of the aluminum tubes sought by Iraq with those that would be needed for a “Zippe-type” centrifuge. The comparison makes the two tubes appear similar. However, the chart fails to note that the aluminum tubes are an exact match to those used in Iraq's 81-millimeter rocket. The estimate also claims that the tubes are not suitable for rockets. The assertion ignores the fact that similar tubes are used in rockets from several countries, including the United States. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
In addition to the assessment's misleading statements about the tubes, there are interesting differences between the classified and declassified versions of the NIE with regard to the tubes. The declassified, public version of the NIE states: “Iraq's aggressive attempts to obtain proscribed high-strength aluminum tubes are of significant concern. All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons and that these tubes could be used in a centrifuge enrichment program. Most intelligence specialists assess this to be the intended use, but some believe that these tubes are probably intended for conventional weapons programs. Based on tubes of the size Iraq is trying to acquire, a few tens of thousands of centrifuges would be capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a couple of weapons per year.” However the classified version of the document presents a more nuanced assessment. In the main text of the document, it says that the Energy Department “agrees that reconstitution of the nuclear program is underway but assesses that the tubes probably are not part of the program.” At the bottom of the page, in a lengthy footnote by the State Department's INR, the alternative view states that the agency agrees with the DOE's assessment that the tubes are not meant for use in a gas centrifuge. The footnote reads: “In INR's view Iraq's efforts to acquire aluminum tubes is central to the argument that Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, but INR is not persuaded that the tubes in question are intended for use as centrifuge rotors. INR accepts the judgment of technical experts at the US Department of Energy (DOE) who have concluded that the tubes Iraq seeks to acquire are poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges to be used for uranium enrichment and finds unpersuasive the arguments advanced by others to make the case that they are intended for that purpose. INR considers it far more likely that the tubes are intended for another purpose, most likely the production of artillery rockets. The very large quantities being sought, the way the tubes were tested by the Iraqis, and the atypical lack of attention to operational security in the procurement efforts are among the factors, in addition to the DOE assessment, that lead INR to conclude that the tubes are not intended for use in Iraq's nuclear weapon program.” [US Government, 10/02; Washington Post, 7/19/03; USA Today, 7/31/03 Sources: Wissam al-Zahawie]
Reconstituted nuclear weapons programs - The intelligence estimate says that “most” of the US' six intelligence agencies believe there is “compelling evidence that Saddam [Hussein] is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program.” The classified version of the document includes the dissenting position of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) which states: “The activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons. Iraq may be doing so, but INR considers the available evidence inadequate to support such a judgment. Lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons programs, INR is unwilling to ... project a timeline for the completion of activities it does not now see happening.” It is later learned that nuclear scientists in the Department of Energy's in-house intelligence office were also opposed to the NIE's conclusion and had wanted to endorse the State's alternative view. However, the person representing the DOE, Thomas Ryder, silenced the views of those within his department and inexplicably voted to support the position that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program (see September 2002). The DOE's vote was seen as critical, since the department's assessment was supposed to represent the views of the government's nuclear experts. [US Government, 10/02; Washington Post, 7/19/03; Knight Ridder, 2/10/04; Knight Ridder, 2/10/04 Sources: Wissam al-Zahawie]

Chemical and Biological Weapons - The classified version of the estimate uses cautionary language to conclude that Iraq probably does have chemical and biological weapons. It states: “We judge Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating BW agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives.” But the document also highlights the belief that it is unlikely that Iraq has any intention to use these against the US. “... Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW [Chemical/Biological Weapons] against the United States, fearing that exposure of Iraqi involvement would provide Washington with a stronger case for making war.” Iraq would probably only use such weapons against the United States if it “feared an attack that threatened the survival of the regime were imminent or unavoidable, or possibly for revenge.” [Sources: 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq]
The last two observations are conspicuously absent from the declassified, public version of the estimate, which reads only, “Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating BW agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives, including potentially against the US Homeland.” [Knight Ridder, 2/10/04; Washington Post, 2/7/03]
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - The NIE claims that Iraq has unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which can be used to deploy biological and chemical weapons. “Baghdad's UAVs—especially if used for delivery of chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents—could threaten Iraq's neighbors, US forces in the Persian Gulf, and the United States if brought close to, or into, the US Homeland.” [Sources: 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq]
But this view is not held unanimously among the various intelligence agencies. Significantly, the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center disagrees with this assessment. The Center, which controls most of the American military's UAV fleet, says in a dissenting opinion that there is little evidence that Iraq's drones are related to the country's suspected biological weapons program. Current intelligence suggests that the drones are not capable of carrying much more than a camera and a video recorder. The Air Force believes that Iraq's unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are for reconnaissance, like its counterparts in the US. The dissenting opinion reads: “... The Director, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, US Air Force, does not agree that Iraq is developing UAVs primarily intended to be delivery platforms for chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents. The small size of Iraq's new UAV strongly suggests a primary role of reconnaissance, although CBW delivery is an inherent capability.” [Associated Press, 8/24/03; Washington Post, 9/26/03; Knight Ridder, 2/10/04 Sources: US Government officials and scientists] This important statement is not included in the public version of the document. [Knight Ridder, 2/10/04 Sources: 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq] Bob Boyd, director of the Air Force Intelligence Analysis Agency, will tell reporters in August 2003 that his department thought the allegation in the NIE “was a little odd,” noting that Air Force assessments “all along” had said that reconnaissance, not weapons delivery, was the purpose of Iraq's drones. “Everything we discovered strengthened our conviction that the UAVs were to be used for reconnaissance,” he will explain. “What we were thinking was: Why would you purposefully design a vehicle to be an inefficient delivery means? Wouldn't it make more sense that they were purposefully designing it to be a decent reconnaissance UAV?” [Associated Press, 8/24/03; Washington Post, 9/26/03 Sources: Bob Boyd] The NIE's conclusion is apparently also based on accounts from defectors and exiles as well as information suggesting that Iraq is attempting to obtain “commercially available route-planning software,” containing topographic data of the United States. According to the NIE, this data “could facilitate targeting of US sites.” But Air Force analysts were not convinced by the argument, noting that this sort of information could easily be retrieved from the Internet and other highly accessible sources. “We saw nothing sinister about the inclusion of the US maps in route-planning software,” Boyd will tell reporters. [Washington Post, 9/26/03 Sources: Bob Boyd] Analysts at the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency are said to back the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center's position. [Associated Press, 8/24/03 Sources: US Government officials and scientists]
Aftermath - After the completion of the National Intelligence Estimate, the Bush administration will continue to make allegations concerning Iraq's weapons capabilities and ties to terrorism, but will include none of the qualifications and nuances that are present in the classified version of the assessment. After excerpts from the classified version of the NIE are published in the press in July of 2003 (see July 11, 2003) and the public learns that the document's conclusions had actually been much less alarmist than the public version, administration officials will claim that neither Bush, Rice nor other top officials were informed about the alternative views expressed by the DOE, INR, and the Air Force intelligence agency. They will also assert that the dissenting views did not significantly undermine the overall conclusion of the NIE that Iraq was continuing its banned weapons program despite UN resolutions. [Washington Post, 7/19/03; Washington Post, 7/27/03; New York Times, 7/19/03]
But this claim is later disputed in an article by The Washington Post, which reports: “One person who has worked with Rice describes as ‘inconceivable’ the claims that she was not more actively involved. Indeed, subsequent to the July 18 briefing, another senior administration official said Rice had been briefed immediately on the NIE—including the doubts about Iraq's nuclear program—and had ‘skimmed’ the document. The official said that within a couple of weeks, Rice ‘read it all.’ ” [Washington Post, 7/27/03 Sources: two unnamed administration officials] Additionally, senior CIA analyst Stuart Cohen, the acting chairman of the National Intelligence Council at this time, who helped write the document, will tell the Agence France Presse, “Any reader would have had to read only as far as the second paragraph of the Key Judgments to know that as we said, ‘we lacked specific information on many key aspects of Iraq's WMD program.’ ” [Agence France Presse, 11/30/03 Sources: Michael Hayden] A Senate Intelligence Committee investigation will determine in July 2004 that “Most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting.” [Sources: Senate Intelligence Report on Iraq, 7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bob Boyd, George W. Bush, Stuart Cohen, Bob Graham, Condoleezza Rice  Additional Info 
          

October 7, 2002

       In a televised speech, Bush presents the administration's case that Saddam Hussein's regime is a threat to the security of the nation. The speech is widely criticized for including false and exaggerated statements.
Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons - Bush claims that a shipment of 3,000 aluminum tubes to Iraq, which were intercepted in Jordan by US authorities in July of 2001 (see July 2001), had been destined for use in a uranium enrichment program. But by this time numerous experts and government scientists have already warned the administration against making this allegation. [White House, 10/7/02]
Three weeks before Bush's speech, The Washington Post ran a story on the aluminum tubes. The article summarized a study by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), disputing the administration's claim that the tubes were to be used for gas centrifuges. The report was authored by the institute's president and founder, David Albright, a respected nuclear physicist, who had investigated Iraq's nuclear weapons program after the First Gulf War as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspection team and who has spoken before Congress on numerous occasions. In his study, he concluded that Iraq's attempts to import the tubes “are not evidence that Iraq is in possession of, or close to possessing, nuclear weapons” and “do not provide evidence that Iraq has an operating centrifuge plant or when such a plant could be operational.” [Institute for Science and International Security, 10/9/03; Washington Post, 9/19/02; Guardian, 10/9/02; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/02] Soon after the speech, David Albright tells The Guardian newspaper that there is still no evidence to substantiate that interpretation. As one unnamed specialist at the US Department of Energy explains to the newspaper, “I would just say there is not much support for that [nuclear] theory around here.” [Guardian 10/9/02] The Washington Post article also reported that government experts on nuclear technology who disagreed with the White House view had told Mr. Albright that the administration expected them to remain silent. [Washington Post 9/19/02; Independent 9/22/02] Houston G. Wood III, a retired Oak Ridge physicist considered to be “among the most eminent living experts” on gas centrifuges reviewed the tube question in August 2001 (see 1950s) and concluded at that time that it was very unlikely that the tubes had been imported to be used for centrifuges in a uranium enrichment program. He later tells The Washington Post in mid-2003 that “it would have been extremely difficult to make these tubes into centrifuges,” adding that it stretched “the imagination to come up with a way.” He also says that other centrifuge experts whom he knew shared his assessment of the tubes. [Washington Post, 8/10/03 Sources: Houston G. Wood III] In addition to the several outside experts who criticized the tubes allegation, analysts within the US intelligence community also doubted the claim. Less than a week before Bush's speech, the Energy Department and the State Department's intelligence branch, the INR, had appended a statement to a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq disputing the theory (see October 1, 2002). [National Intelligence Estimate, 10/2002 Sources: David Albright]
Saddam Hussein ordered his nuclear program to continue in 1998 - Bush says that US intelligence has information that Saddam Hussein ordered his nuclear program to continue after inspectors left in 1998. “Before being barred from Iraq in 1998, the (UN) International Atomic Energy Agency dismantled extensive nuclear weapons-related facilities, including three uranium enrichment sites,” Bush charges. “That same year, information from a high-ranking Iraqi nuclear engineer who had defected revealed that despite his public promises, Saddam Hussein had ordered his nuclear program to continue.” [White House, 10/7/02; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/02]
But Bush's “high-ranking” source turns out to be Khidir Kamza, who is considered by many to be an unreliable source. David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security where Hamza worked as an analyst from 1997 to 1999, says that after Hamza defected “he went off the edge” and “started saying irresponsible things.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/02] And General Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law who was in charge of the dictator's former weapons program but who defected in 1995, told UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors, as well as US and British intelligence, that Khidhir Hamza was “a professional liar.” “He worked with us, but he was useless and always looking for promotions,” Kamel had explained. “He consulted with me but could not deliver anything. . . . He was even interrogated by a team before he left and was allowed to go.” [New Yorker, 5/5/03 Sources: UNSCOM report, S/1998/332, April 16, 1998]
Iraq is developing drones that could deploy chemical and biological weapons - The President claims that Iraq is developing drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which “could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas.” He goes so far as to say, “We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States.” [White House, 10/7/02; Guardian, 10/9/02]
But this claim comes shortly after US intelligence agencies completed a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, in which Air Force intelligence had disputed the drone allegation (see October 1, 2002). Bush's drone allegation is quickly derided by experts and other sources. The Guardian of London reports two days later that according to US military experts, “Iraq had been converting eastern European trainer jets, known as L-29s, into drones, but ... that with a maximum range of a few hundred miles they were no threat to targets in the US.” [Guardian, 10/9/02 Sources: Unnamed military experts] And the San Francisco Chronicle will cite experts who say that “slow-moving unmanned aerial vehicles would likely be shot down as soon as they crossed Iraq's borders” because “Iraqi airspace is closely monitored by US and British planes and radar systems” . The report will also note, “It's also unclear how the vehicles would reach the US mainland—the nearest point is Maine, almost 5, 500 miles away—without being intercepted.” [San Francisco Chronicle 10/12/02 Sources: Unnamed experts] Anthony Cordesman, a security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, will say he believes the drone allegation is unrealistic. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he says, “As a guesstimate, Iraq's present holdings of delivery systems and chemical and biological weapons seem most likely to be so limited in technology and operational lethality that they do not constrain US freedom of action or do much to intimidate Iraq's neighbors.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/02 Sources: Anthony Cordesman] These criticisms of Bush's claim are validated after the US invasion of Iraq. Two US government scientists involved in the post-invasion hunt for weapons of mass destruction will tell the Associated Press in August 2003 that they inspected the drones and concluded that they were never a threat to the US. “We just looked at the UAVs and said, ‘There's nothing here. There's no room to put anything in here,’ ” one of the scientists will say. “The US scientists, weapons experts who spoke on condition of anonymity, reached their conclusions after studying the small aircraft and interviewing Iraqi missile experts, system designers and Gen. Ibrahim Hussein Ismail, the Iraqi head of the military facility where the UAVs were designed,” the Associated Press will explain in its report. [Associated Press, 8/24/03 Sources: Unnamed US government scientists]
Saddam Hussein could give terrorists weapons of mass destruction - Bush asserts, “Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.” [White House, 10/7/02]
But not only have numerous experts and inside sources disputed this theory (see July 2002-March 19, 2003), US intelligence's National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq—completed just one week before—concluded that this is an unlikely scenario (see October 1, 2002). “Baghdad, for now, appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW against the United States,” the document clearly stated. “Should Saddam conclude that a US-led attack could no longer be deterred he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/03]
Iraq rebuilding facilities associated with production of biological and chemical weapons - Bush claims that surveillance photos indicate that Iraq “is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons.” [White House, 10/7/02]
On the following day, photos are published on the White House website showing that Iraq had repaired three sites damaged by US bombs—the Al Furat Manufacturing Facility, the Nassr Engineering Establishment Manufacturing Facility, and Fallujah II. [White House, 10/8/02] But no evidence is provided by the White House demonstrating that these sites have resumed activities related to the production of weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi authorities will give reporters a tour of the facilities on October 10 (see October 10, 2002).
Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases - Bush alleges that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda operatives “in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.” [White House, 10/7/02]
The claim is based on a September 2002 CIA document which had warned that its sources were of “varying reliability” and that the claim had not yet been substantiated (see September 2002). The report's main source, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda operative who offered the information to CIA interrogators while in custody, later recounts the claim (see February 14, 2003). [CNN, 9/26/02; Newsweek, 7/5/2004; The New York Times, 7/31/2004 Sources: Unnamed administration official] And earlier in the month, US intelligence services had concluded in their National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that this allegation could not be confirmed. [Newsday, 10/10/02; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/02; Washington Post, 6/22/03; CNN, 9/26/02]
A very senior al-Qaeda leader received medical treatment in Baghdad - Bush claims: “Some al-Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al-Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks.” The allegation refers to Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Palestinian who is the founder of al-Tawhid, an organization whose aim is to kill Jews and install an Islamic regime in Jordan. No evidence ever surfaces to suggest that the group works with al-Qaeda. The allegation is partly based on intercepted telephone calls in which Al Zarqawi was overheard calling friends or relatives (see Late 2001-May 2002). But Knight Ridder Newspapers reports that according to US intelligence officials, “The intercepts provide no evidence that the suspected terrorist was working with the Iraqi regime or that he was working on a terrorist operation while he was in Iraq.” [White House, 10/7/02; Knight Ridder Newspapers, 10/7/02 Sources: Umnamed US intelligence officials]

People and organizations involved: Houston G. Wood III, George W. Bush, David Albright, Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi  Additional Info 
          

Before October 19, 2002

       Nuclear scientists working for the government who disagree with the administration's claim that the tubes were meant for a centrifuge program are instructed “to remain silent.” [Washington Post, 9/19/02; Guardian, 10/9/02; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/02 Sources: David Albright]
          

December 2002

       Experts from US national laboratories inform the US Department of Energy that Iraq is producing tubes identical to the Italian-made Medusa 81 rockets, which are of the same dimensions and which are made of the same alloy as the tubes that were intercepted in Jordan in July 2001. [Washington Post, 8/10/03 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors]
          

January 9, 2003

       The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) submits a preliminary report to the UN Security Council on the results of the inspections so far. The report says: “To date, no new information of significance has emerged regarding Iraq's past nuclear program (pre-1991) or with regard to Iraq activities during the period between 1991 and 1998.... [N]o evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities has been detected, although not all of the laboratory results of sample analysis are yet available.” [New York Times, 1/10/03; Reuters, 1/9/03; Independent, 1/10/03; Guardian, 1/10/03 Sources: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) preliminary report to the UN Security Council] It also states that Washington's claim that the tubes were meant for a centrifuge is highly unlikely. In one section of the report, its authors write: “While the matter is still under investigation and further verification is foreseen, the IAEA's analysis to date indicates that the specifications of the aluminum tubes sought by Iraq in 2001 and 2002 appear to be consistent with reverse engineering of rockets. While it would be possible to modify such tubes for the manufacture of centrifuges, they are not directly suitable for it.” [New York Times, 1/10/03; Reuters, 1/9/03; Independent, 1/10/03; Guardian, 1/10/03 Sources: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) preliminary report to the UN Security Council] The IAEA preliminary conclusion on the tubes stems from a visit by inspectors to a metal fabrication factory in Nasser where they had found 13,000 completed rockets, all produced from 7075-T6 aluminum tubes. Iraqi engineers working at the facility explained that they had been seeking more aluminum tubes at the time US authorities intercepted the July 2001 shipment (see July 2001) because their supply was low. The engineers provided additional information which supported the view that the tubes were not meant for use in a gas centrifuge. They told the inspectors that the rigid specifications for the tubes were intended to improve the rocket's accuracy without requiring any major changes to the design. Documents reviewed by the inspectors confirmed the Iraqi engineers' account. It was also explained that the tubes, which were stored outside, were anodized so they would not corrode. Inspectors confirmed this also. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
          

January 11, 2003

       Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), tells reporters during a press conference: “I think it's difficult for Iraq to hide a complete nuclear-weapons program. They might be hiding some computer studies or R. and D. on one single centrifuge. These are not enough to make weapons. There were reports from different member states that Iraq was importing aluminum tubes for enrichment, that they were importing uranium from Africa. Our provisional conclusion is that these tubes were for rockets and not for centrifuges. They deny they have imported any uranium since 1991.” [Time, 1/12/02]
People and organizations involved: Mohamed ElBaradei
          

January 22, 2003

       CIA agent Joe T. travels to Vienna, Austria, where he attempts to convince IAEA nuclear scientists they were wrong to conclude that the aluminum tubes imported by Iraq, but intercepted in Jordan, were not meant to be used as rotors in a centrifuge program. The thrust of his argument is that the tubes' dimensions are overly precise and that they are made of a special aluminum alloy that is “excessively strong.” [Washington Post, 8/10/03 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors] But the presentation is not convincing. “Everybody was embarrassed when he came and made this presentation, embarrassed and disgusted,” one participant later recalls to the New York Times. “We were going insane, thinking, ‘Where is he coming from?’” [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: Joe T.
          

Around January 22, 2003

       Sometime after Joe T.'s presentation to IAEA scientists, US analysts collect and photograph tubes in Iraq that are “virtually identical” to the Medusa tubes made in Italy. The tubes even have a stamped logo of the rocket's Italian manufacturer and the words, “81mm rocket.” This is reported by The Washington Post on January 24: “The quantity and specifications of the tubes—narrow, silver cylinders measuring 81 millimeters in diameter and about a meter in length—made them ill-suited to enrich uranium without extensive modification, the experts said. But they are a perfect fit for a well-documented 81mm conventional rocket program in place for two decades. Iraq imported the same aluminum tubes for rockets in the 1980s. The new tubes it tried to purchase actually bear an inscription that includes the word ‘rocket,’ according to one official who examined them.” [Washington Post, 1/24/03; Washington Post, 8/10/03 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors]
People and organizations involved: Joe T.
          

February 3, 2003

       In a memo to Secretary of State Colin Powell, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) warns him against making certain claims in his presentation to the UN Security Council about the aluminum tubes Iraq attempted to import in July 2001 (see July 2001). The CIA had been arguing that the tubes were made to meet specfiications that far exceeded that for comparable rockets used by the US. But INR's memo explains that the claim is untrue. “In fact, the most comparable US system is a tactical rocket—the US Mark 66 air-launched 70-millimeter rocket—that uses the same, high-grade (7075-T6) aluminum, and that has specifications with similar tolerances.” Powell will ignore the memo's advice. [Financial Times, 7/29/03; New York Times, 10/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: Colin Powell
          

February 14, 2003

       UNMOVIC Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei present an update to the UN Security Council on the progress of weapons inspections in Iraq. The content of their presentation includes no evidence to substantiate US and British claims that Iraq poses a serious threat to the US or Europe. After the report is presented, the majority of the UN Security Council members feel that the use of military force will not be needed to effectively disarm Iraq. [United Nations, 2/14/03; Financial Times, 2/14/03]
UNMOVIC report by Hans Blix -

After conducting some 400 inspections at over 300 Iraqi sites since December 2002, the inspection teams still have not found any evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or that Iraq has programs to develop such weapons. [Associated Press, 2/14/03; Financial Times, 2/14/03; Guardian, 2/14/03b; Interpress News Service, 2/15/03; AP, 2/14/03]

The inspectors are unaware of any reliable evidence that the Iraqis have had advanced knowledge of the timing and locations of weapons inspections. “In no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance that the inspectors were coming,” Blix says. [Guardian, 2/14/03b; Guardian, 2/15/03b; Reuters, 2/14/03b; Financial Times, 2/14/03; Associated Press, 2/14/03]

The Iraqi government agreed to reduce the number of “minders” present in interviews with Iraqi scientists. [Financial Times, 2/14/03]

The UNMOVIC weapons inspection teams have begun destroying Iraq's declared arsenal of mustard gas. [Financial Times, 2/14/03]

South Africa has made an agreement with Iraq to assist it in its disarmament efforts. [Financial Times, 2/14/03; Guardian, 2/14/03b]

Several proscribed weapons and other items remain unaccounted for, including more than 1,000 tons of chemical agents. Blix explains that if they do not exist, Iraq needs to provide him with credible evidence that they have been destroyed. “Another matter and one of great significance is that many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for. One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist. However, that possibility is also not excluded. If they exist, they should be presented for destruction. If they do not exist, credible evidence to that effect should be presented.” [Financial Times, 2/14/03; Associated Press, 2/14/03; Guardian, 2/14/03b]

Based on the data contained in Iraq's declaration of arms, experts have concluded that two varieties of Iraq's Al Samoud II missile systems are capable of exceeding the 150km range limit that was imposed on Iraq in 1991 after the First Gulf War (see February 12, 2003). But contrary to what Powell recently stated in his February 5 presentation to the UN, test stands located at the Al Rafah facility have not been associated with the testing of missiles with the ranges Powell suggested (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003). [Financial Times, 2/14/03; Associated Press, 2/14/03; Guardian, 2/15/03b]

More interviews with Iraqi scientists, especially ones involved in its former biological weapons programs, are needed. [Financial Times, 2/14/03]

Recent private interviews with Iraqi scientists have been helpful to weapons inspectors. [Financial Times, 2/14/03]

The amount of intelligence being supplied by foreign agencies have recently increased and the new information is helping inspectors. [Financial Times, 2/14/03]

Blix challenges the conclusions made by Powell in his February 5 presentation (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003) to the UN with regard to US satellite pictures showing the movement of trucks and supplies at suspected weapons sites prior to inspections. He says, “The reported movement of munitions at the site could just as easily have been a routine activity as a movement of proscribed munitions in anticipation of an imminent inspection.” [Financial Times, 2/14/03; Guardian, 2/14/03b; Guardian, 2/15/03b; Reuters, 2/14/03b; Associated Press, 2/14/03]

Iraq produced a list of 83 people who it says participated in the destruction of large quantities of anthrax and VX precursors in 1991. [Financial Times, 2/14/03]

Inspections are increasing inspectors' knowledge of Iraqi arms. [Guardian, 2/14/03b]

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report by Mohamed ElBaradei -

ElBaradei's team has found no evidence of an illegal nuclear weapons program. “We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear related activities in Iraq.” [IAEI, 2/14/03; Financial Times, 2/14/03]

Iraqi officials have provided IAEA inspectors with immediate access to all sites it has sought to examine. [IAEI, 2/14/03; Financial Times, 2/14/03]

The IAEA is still investigating why Iraq attempted to import aluminum tubes during the summer of 2002. The agency is awaiting an explanation from Iraq as to why the tubes—alleged by Iraq to have been destined for a conventional weapons artillery program—were fabricated according to such high quality specifications. [IAEI, 2/14/03; Financial Times, 2/14/03]

Referring to the documents that had been discovered in the home of Faleh Hassan (see January 16, 2003), Mohamed ElBaradei states: “While the documents have provided some additional details about Iraq's laser enrichment development efforts, they refer to activities or sites already known to the IAEA and appear to be the personal files of the scientist in whose home they were found. Nothing contained in the documents alters the conclusions previously drawn by the IAEA concerning the extent of Iraq's laser enrichment program” . [IAEI, 2/14/03; Guardian, 2/15/03b; BBC, 2/17/03]

Reaction - After the two reports, most UN Security Council members say they believe inspections are working and that the use of military force is unnecessary. Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, says: “There is an alternative to war: disarming Iraq through inspections. [War] would be so fraught with risk for the people, the region and international stability that it should be envisaged only as a last resort. ... We must give priority to disarmament by peaceful means.” His comments are followed by a huge applause. “French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin's impassioned speech seeking more time for inspections elicited rare applause from diplomats in the chamber,” reports the Associated Press. By contrast, the more hawkish remarks of US Secretary of State Colin Powell—who was said to have appeared “annoyed” during parts of Blix's report— “did not receive any applause.” Powell, in his response to the report, had stated: “We cannot wait for one of these terrible weapons to turn up in our cities.... More inspections—I am sorry—are not the answer.... The threat of force must remain.” After the reports, Germany, Syria, Chile, Mexico, Russia, France and Pakistan, favor continuing the inspections while Spain and Bulgaria back the US and British position. [Interpress News Service, 2/15/03; US Department of State, 2/14/03; Associated Press, 2/14/03; Fox News, 2/15/03]

People and organizations involved: Colin Powell, Mohamed ElBaradei, Hans Blix, Dominique de Villepin  Additional Info 
          

Late February 2003

       By this time, Iraq's argument that the tubes were meant for conventional rockets, not for a centrifuge, is considered by UN experts to be “air tight.” [CBS News, 2/20/03; Mirror, 2/22/03 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors]
          

March 7, 2003

       UNMOVIC chief arms inspector Hans Blix provides a quarterly report to the UN Security Council on the progress of inspections in Iraq, as required by UN Security Resolution 1284 (1999). It is the twelfth such report since UNMOVIC's inception. Blix's report to the Council does not contain any evidence to support US and British claims that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or the programs to develop such weapons. IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei also reports to the Council and says there are no signs that Iraq has reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. [UNMOVIC, 3/7/03; CNN, 3/7/03]
UNMOVIC report by Hans Blix -

There is no evidence that Iraq has mobile biological weapons factories, as was recently alleged by Colin Powell in his February 5 presentation (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003) to the UN. “Several inspections have taken place ... in relation to mobile production facilities,” Blix says. “No evidence of proscribed activities has so far been found.” He further explained that his inspectors had examined numerous mobile facilities and large containers with seed processing equipment. [UNMOVIC, 3/7/03; Agence France Presse, 3/7/03; CNN, 3/7/03; Blix, 3/7/03]

The Iraqi government has increased its cooperation with inspectors since the end of January. It is attempting to quantify the biological and chemical weapons that it says were destroyed in 1991. [UNMOVIC, 3/7/03; CNN, 3/7/03; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/03; Associated Press, 3/7/03]

Iraq's destruction of several Al Samoud II missiles represents a real step towards disarmament. “The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament,” he says. “We are not watching the destruction of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed.” [UNMOVIC, 3/7/03; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/03; Associated Press, 3/7/03; New York Times, 3/8/03]

Blix says that the UN inspectors needed a few more months to finish their work. “Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude induced by continued outside pressure, it will still take some time to verify sites and items, analyze documents, interview relevant persons and draw conclusions,” he says, concluding, “It will not take years, nor weeks, but months.” [UNMOVIC, 3/7/03; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/03; Associated Press, 3/7/03]

Iraqi scientists have recently accepted inspectors' requests to be interviewed without “minders.” “Since we started requesting interviews, 38 individuals were asked for private interviews, of which 10 accepted under our terms, seven during the past week,” Blix explains. [CNN, 3/7/03; UNMOVIC, 3/7/03]

Some Iraqi scientists have agreed to interviews without “minders” —but more cooperation is needed. He says, “While the Iraqi side seems to have encouraged interviewees not to request the presence of Iraqi officials or the taping of the interviews, conditions ensuring the absence of undue influences are difficult to attain inside Iraq.” [UNMOVIC, 3/7/03]
Iraq needs to turn over more documents. “Iraq, with a highly developed administrative system, should be able to provide more documentary evidence about its proscribed weapons. Only a few new such documents have come to light so far and been handed over since we began.” [UNMOVIC, 3/7/03] There is no evidence of underground weapons facilities. Blix says: “There have been reports, denied by Iraq, that proscribed activities are conducted underground. Iraq should provide information on underground structures suitable for the production or storage of weapons of mass destruction. During inspections of declared or undeclared facilities, inspectors examined building structures for any possible underground facilities. In addition, ground-penetrating radar was used in several locations. No underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found.” [UNMOVIC, 3/7/03]
IAEA report by Mohamed ElBaradei -

There is no evidence that the aluminum tubes imported by Iraq in July 2001 were meant for a nuclear weapons program. ElBaradei says: “Extensive field investigation and document analysis have failed to uncover any evidence that Iraq intended to use these 81mm tubes for any project other than the reverse engineering of rockets. ... Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminum tubes in question.” [IAEA, 3/7/03; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/03; The Washington Post, 3/8/03; Associated Press, 3/7/03; CNN, 3/7/03; New York Times, 3/8/03; Reuters, 3/7/03]

There is no evidence that Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Niger. Documents provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency by the US were determined to be forgeries. The documents were a collection of letters between an Iraqi diplomat and senior Niger officials discussing Iraq's interest in procuring a large amount of uranium oxide (see Early October 2002). “Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that documents which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic,” ElBaradei explains. “We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded.” (see June 12, 2003) [IAEA, 3/7/03; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/03; The Washington Post, 3/8/03; Associated Press, 3/7/03; CNN, 3/7/03; New York Times, 3/8/03; Reuters, 3/7/03; Globe and Mail, 3/8/03; Guardian, 3/8/03; Associated Press, 3/8/03]

The IAEA has yet to come across evidence of a nuclear weapons program. “After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq,” ElBaradei states. “[T]here is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.” [IAEA, 3/7/03; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/03; Associated Press, 3/7/03; Globe and Mail, 3/8/03; Associated Press, 3/8/03; The Washington Post, 3/8/03]

In a direct response to allegations made by Colin Powell on February 5 (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003) related to the attempted procurement of magnets that could be used in a gas centrifuge, ElBaradei, says: “The IAEA has verified that previously acquired magnets have been used for missile guidance systems, industrial machinery, electricity meters and field telephones. Through visits to research and production sites, reviews of engineering drawings and analyses of sample magnets, IAEA experts familiar with the use of such magnets in centrifuge enrichment have verified that none of the magnets that Iraq has declared could be used directly for a centrifuge magnetic bearing.” [IAEA, 3/7/03]

Iraq's industrial capacity “has deteriorated” at the inspected sites because of lack of maintenance and funds. [IAEA, 3/7/03]

Reaction - Both sides claim that the reports give further support to each of their respective stances on the issue of Iraqi disarmament. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin tells the Council that the reports “testify to the progress” of the inspections. He states that France will not support another resolution because “we cannot accept any ultimatum, any automatic use of force.” Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says that the reports demonstrate that inspections have been “fruitful.” The Bush administration does not alter its position, despite statements by the two inspectors that Iraq is cooperating with inspections and complying with demands to disarm. Colin Powell, responding to the inspectors' reports, reiterates the administration's position that the inspections are not working and that Saddam is not cooperating. “We must not walk away,” Powell says. “We must not find ourselves here this coming November with the pressure removed and with Iraq once again marching down the merry path to weapons of mass destruction, threatening the region, threatening the world.” He claims that Iraq's behavior is a “a catalog still of noncooperation” and repeats the administration's allegation that the “Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” Back at the White House, Ari Fleischer tells reporters, “As the president has said, if the United Nations will not disarm Saddam Hussein, it will be another international organization, a coalition of the willing that will be made up of numerous nations that will disarm Saddam Hussein.” [CNN, 3/6/03; CNN, 3/7/02; US Department of State, 3/7/03]

People and organizations involved: Mohamed ElBaradei, Hans Blix, Igor Ivanov, Colin Powell, Ari Fleischer, Dominique de Villepin  Additional Info 
          

May 2003

       Beginning on May 1, American nuclear physicist David Albright attempts to contact US defense officials to inform them that Mahdi Obeidi—the Iraqi nuclear scientist who once headed Iraq's gas centrifuge program for uranium enrichment—has valuable information that he wants to share with the United States. But according to Albright, his inquiries are initially “rebuffed.” Finally, on May 7, he finds someone at the CIA who is interested. A little more than three weeks later, US authorities will investigate this lead (see June 2, 2003). [Newsweek, 8/8/03; CNN, 6/26/03; Washington Post, 10/18/03 Sources: David Albright]
People and organizations involved: David Albright, Mahdi Obeidi
          

Between June 3, 2003 and June 17, 2003

       Mahdi Obeidi is taken into custody by US Special Forces. He is released on June 17, 2003. During his detention, Obeidi is interviewed by US authorities seeking to learn more about Saddam's efforts to develop nuclear weapons. But instead of meeting with a US nuclear physicist as Obeidi expects, he is interviewed by CIA agent Joe T., the main proponent of the theory that the 81mm aluminum tubes Iraq attempted to import in July 2001 (see July 2001) had been meant for a centrifuge program. Joe's area of expertise, however, is not nuclear physics. His background relates to export controls (see Early 1980s) (see (1999)). When asked about Saddam's efforts to develop nuclear weapons, Obeidi does not tell Joe T. what he wants to hear. Instead, he tells him that Saddam abandoned the program in 1991 as the Iraqi government had claimed in its December 7 declaration to the UN. He adds that if the program had been restarted, he would have known about it. He also says that the tube shipment confiscated by the CIA in July 2001 was completely unrelated to nuclear weapons. Those tubes—with a diameter of 81mm—could not have been used in the gas centrifuge designed by Obeidi, which specified tubes with a 145mm diameter. “The physics of a centrifuge would not permit a simple substitution of aluminum tubes for the maraging steel and carbon fiber designs used by Obeidi,” The Washington Post will later report. Obeidi and his family will later move to a CIA safe house in Kuwait. [Washington Post, 10/18/03; Newsweek, 8/8/03 Sources: David Albright] At the end of the summer, he will receive permission to move to an East Coast suburb on the basis of Public Law 110 , which allows “those who help the United States by providing valuable intelligence information” to resettle in the US. [CIA, 11/02/03 Sources: David Kay]
People and organizations involved: Joe T., Mahdi Obeidi
          

July 30, 2003

       National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice offers the discovery of aluminum tubes as proof of Hussein's intentions to develop nuclear weapons on PBS' NewsHour with Jim Lehrer “[H]e had ...an active procurement network to procure items, many of which, by the way, were on the prohibited list of the nuclear suppliers group. There's a reason that they were on the prohibited list of the nuclear supplies group: Magnets, balancing machines, yes, aluminum tubes, about which the consensus view was that they were suitable for use in centrifuges to spin material for nuclear weapons.” [Iraq Watch, 7/30/2003; White House, 7/30/2003; PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 7/30/2003; Iraq on the Record database, 3/16/2004]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice
          

October 3, 2004

       Responding to a New York Times article which described how the CIA and the White House ignored expert opinions that the tubes were not meant for use as rotors in a gas centrifuge, Condoleezza Rice says on ABC's “This Week” program: “As I understand it, people are still debating this. And I'm sure they will continue to debate it.” [The Washington Post, 10/4/2004]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice
          


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