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Key Events

Key events related to DSM (56)

General Topic Areas

Alleged al-Qaeda ties (83)
Politicization of intelligence (80)
Pre-9/11 plans for war (34)
Weapons inspections (122)
Alleged WMDs (99)
The decision to invade (104)
Internal opposition (29)
Motives (53)
Pre-war planning (30)
Predictions (19)
Legal justification (96)
Propaganda (23)
Public opinion on Iraqi threat (13)
Diversion of Resources to Iraq (8)
Pre-war attacks against Iraq (18)

Specific Allegations

Aluminum tubes allegation (59)
Office of Special Plans (24)
Africa-uranium allegation (95)
Prague Connection (24)
Al Zarqawi allegation (10)
Poisons And Gases (5)
Drones
Biological weapons trailers (18)

Specific cases and issues

Spying on the UN (8)
Outing of Jose Bustani (13)
Powells Speech to UN (13)
Chalabi and the INC (63)

Quotes from senior US officials

Chemical and biological weapons allegations (23)
Imminent threat allegations (5)
Iraq ties to terrorist allegations (15)
Nuclear weapons allegations (29)
WMD allegations (9)
Democracy rhetoric (33)
Decision to Invade quotes (16)
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Events leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq: Iraq developing unmanned drones capable of deliverying weapons of mass destruction

 
  

Project: Inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq

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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. [Washington Post, 7/19/03; US Government, 10/02 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.” [Washington Post, 7/19/03; US Government, 10/02; 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. [Knight Ridder, 2/10/04; Knight Ridder, 2/10/04; US Government, 10/02; Washington Post, 7/19/03 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.” [Washington Post, 2/7/03; Knight Ridder, 2/10/04]
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.” [Washington Post, 9/26/03; Associated Press, 8/24/03; 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?” [Washington Post, 9/26/03; Associated Press, 8/24/03 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 militant Islamic groups, 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. [New York Times, 7/19/03; Washington Post, 7/27/03; Washington Post, 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] The official's account, will in fact be confirmed by Rice herself, who reportedly tells Gwen Ifill at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Dallas on August 7, 2003: “I did read everything that the CIA produced for the president on weapons of mass destruction. I read the National Intelligence Estimate cover to cover a couple of times. I read the reports; I was briefed on the reports. This is—after 20 years, as somebody who has read a lot of intelligence reports—this is one of the strongest cases about weapons of mass destruction that I had ever read..” [Gwenn Ifill, 8/7/2003 cited in Daily Howler, 8/11/2003] 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: Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Congress, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Bob Graham, Stuart Cohen, Bob Boyd  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.” [Washington Post, 9/19/02; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/02; Guardian, 10/9/02; Institute for Science and International Security, 10/9/03] 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 Hamza, 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, 2004). A Defense Intelligence Agency report in February 2002 (see February 2002) had also expressed doubt in the claim, going so far as to suggest that al-Libi was “intentionally misleading [his] debriefers.” [CNN, 9/26/02; Newsweek, 7/5/2004; The New York Times, 7/31/2004; New York Times, 11/6/2005 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. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/02; Newsday, 10/10/02; 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.” [Knight Ridder Newspapers, 10/7/02; White House, 10/7/02 Sources: Umnamed US intelligence officials]

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

January 30, 2003-January 31, 2003

       Colin Powell's chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, meets with other State staffers and CIA analysts at the agency's Langley headquarters in a conference room down the hall from George Tenet's office to review two White House reports on Iraq's alleged illegal activities. The two dossiers are meant to serve as the basis for Powell's upcoming speech at the UN (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003). One of the reports—a 48-page dossier that had been provided to Powell's office a few days earlier (see January 29, 2003) —deals with Iraq's supposed arsenal of weapons of mass destruction while the other, slightly more recent report totaling some 45 pages, addresses the issue of Iraq's history of human rights violations and its alleged ties to militant groups listed by the state department as terrorist organizations. [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 230] Shortly after the CIA analysts begin their review of the documents, the decision is made to scrap them and start from scratch. “They suspect much of it originated with the Iraqi National Congress (INC) and its chief, Ahmed Chalabi,” Vanity Fair magazine will later report. Powell's staff is also “convinced that much of it had been funneled directly to Cheney by a tiny separate intelligence unit set up by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.” [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 230] A senior source later tells US News and World Report that the documents had included “unsubstantiated assertions.” According to several administration officials, Powell's team “tried to follow ... [the] 45-page White House script,” but “there were too many problems—some assertions, for instance, were not supported by solid or adequate sourcing—Indeed, some of the damning information simply could not be proved.” [US News and World Report, 6/9/03 Sources: Unnamed senior source] Similarly, one senior official will later recall: “We went through that for about six-hours—item by item, page by page and about halfway through the day I realized this is idiocy, we cannot possibly do this, because it was all bullsh_t—it was unsourced, a lot of it was just out of the newpapers, it was—and I look back in retrospect—it was a [Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas] Feith product, it was a Scooter Libby product, it was a Vice President's office product. It was a product of collusion between that group. And it had no way of standing up, anywhere, I mean it was nuts.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 368-9] One item in the White House's original draft alleged that Iraq had obtained software from an Australian company that would provide Iraqis with sensitive information about US topography. The hawks' argument was that Iraqis, using that knowledge, could one day attack the US with biological or chemical weapons deployed from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). But when Powell's intelligence team investigated the issue, it became “clear that the information was not ironclad.” (see October 1, 2002) [US News and World Report, 6/9/03 Sources: Unnamed senior source] Summing it up, one official will later explain, “We were so appalled at what had arrived from the White House.” [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 230.]
People and organizations involved: Larry Wilkerson, Ahmed Chalabi, Colin Powell
          

10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003

       US Secretary of State Colin Powell presents the Bush administration's case against Saddam to the UN Security Council, in advance of an expected vote on a second resolution that the US and Britain hope will provide the justification to use military force against Iraq. [The White House, 2/6/03] At the insistence of Powell, CIA Director George Tenet is seated directly behind him to the right. “It was theater, a device to signal to the world that Powell was relying on the CIA to make his case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,” Vanity Fair magazine will later explain. [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 232; Bamford, 2004, pp 371-2] In his speech before the Council, Powell makes the case that Iraq is in further material breach of past UN resolutions, specifically the most recent one, UN Resolution 1441. Sources cited in Powell's presentation include defectors, informants, communication intercepts, procurement records, photographs, and detainees. [The White House, 2/6/03] Most of the allegations made by Powell are later demonstrated to be false. “The defectors and other sources went unidentified,” the Associated Press will later report. “The audiotapes were uncorroborated, as were the photo interpretations. No other supporting documents were presented. Little was independently verifiable.” [Associated Press, 8/9/03]
Iraq's December 7 declaration was inaccurate - Powell contends that Iraq's December 7 declaration was not complete. According to UN Resolution 1441 the document was supposed to be a “currently accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects” of its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. But Saddam has not done this, says Powell, who explains that Iraq has yet to provide sufficient evidence that it destroyed its previously declared stock of 8,500 liters of anthrax, as it claimed in the declaration. Furthermore, notes the secretary of state, UNSCOM inspectors had previously estimated that Iraq possessed the raw materials to produce as much as 25,000 liters of the virus. [Washington Post, 2/6/03d; The White House, 2/6/03; New York Times, 2/5/03]

Iraq has ties to al Qaeda - Powell repeats earlier claims that Saddam Hussein's government has ties to al-Qaeda. Powell focuses on the cases of the militant Islamic group Ansar-al-Islam and Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Palestinian, who had received medical treatment in Baghdad during the summer of 2002 (see Late 2001-May 2002). [The White House, 2/6/03]
However, just days before Powell's speech, US and British intelligence officials—speaking on condition of anonymity—told the press that the administration's allegations of Iraqi-al-Qaeda ties were based on information provided by Kurdish groups, who, as enemies of Ansar-al-Islam, should not be considered reliable. Furthermore, these sources unequivocally stated that intelligence analysts on both sides of the Atlantic remained unconvinced of the purported links between Iraq and al-Qaeda (see February 3-4, 2003). [Daily Telegraph, 2/4/03; Independent, 2/3/03] Powell also claims that Iraq provided “chemical or biological weapons training for two al-Qaeda associates beginning in December 2000.” The claim is based on a September 2002 CIA document which had warned that its sources were of “varying reliability” and that the claim was not 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, 2004). [CNN, 9/26/02; Newsweek, 7/5/04; The New York Times, 7/31/04 Sources: Unnamed administration official] Larry Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff, will later say that neither he nor Powell ever received “any dissent with respect to those lines � indeed the entire section that now we know came from [al-Libi].” [Newsweek, 11/10/2005] Senior US officials will admit to the New York Times and Washington Post after the presentation that the administration was not claiming that Saddam Hussein is “exercising operational control” of al-Qaeda. [Washington Post, 2/7/03; New York Times, 2/6/03b Sources: Unnamed senior US officials, Unnamed senior US State Department officials]
Iraq has missiles capable of flying up to 1,200 kilometers - Describing a photo of the al-Rafah weapons site, Powell says: “As part of this effort, another little piece of evidence, Iraq has built an engine test stand that is larger than anything it has ever had. Notice the dramatic difference in size between the test stand on the left, the old one, and the new one on the right. Note the large exhaust vent. This is where the flame from the engine comes out. The exhaust vent on the right test stand is five times longer than the one on the left. The one of the left is used for short-range missiles. The one on the right is clearly intended for long-range missiles that can fly 1,200 kilometers. This photograph was taken in April of 2002. Since then, the test stand has been finished and a roof has been put over it so it will be harder for satellites to see what's going on underneath the test stand.” [New York Times, 2/5/03; The White House, 2/6/03]
But according to the Associated Press, “... UN missile experts have reported inspecting al-Rafah at least five times since inspections resumed Nov. 27, have studied the specifications of the new test stand, regularly monitor tests at the installation, and thus far have reported no concerns.” [Associated Press, 2/7/03] Similarly, Reuters quotes Ali Jassem, an Iraqi official, who explains that the large stand referred to in Powell's speech is not yet in operation and that its larger size is due to the fact that it will be testing engines horizontally. [Reuters, 2/7/03; Guardian, 2/15/03] Several days later, Blix will report to the UN that “so far, the test stand has not been associated with a proscribed activity.” [Guardian, 2/15/03b]
Iraqis attempted to hide evidence from inspectors - Powell shows the UN Security Council satellite shots depicting what he claims are chemical weapons bunkers and convoys of Iraqi cargo trucks preparing to transport ballistic missile components from a weapons site just two days before the arrival of inspectors. “We saw this kind of housecleaning at close to 30 sites,” Powell explains. “We must ask ourselves: Why would Iraq suddenly move equipment of this nature before inspections if they were anxious to demonstrate what they had or did not have?” [Washington Post, 2/6/03; The White House, 2/6/03]
But the photos are interpreted differently by others. An unnamed UN official and German UN Inspector Peter Franck say the trucks in the photos are actually fire engines. [Mercury News, 3/18/03; Agence France Presse, 6/6/03] Another series of photos—taken during the spring and summer of 2002—show that Iraqis have removed a layer of topsoil from the al-Musayyib chemical complex. This piece of evidence, combined with information provided by an unnamed source, leads Powell to draw the following conclusion: “The Iraqis literally removed the crust of the earth from large portions of this site in order to conceal chemical weapons evidence that would be there from years of chemical weapons activity.” [The White House, 2/6/03; Washington Post, 2/6/03h] Showing another series of pictures—one taken on November 10 (before inspections) and one taken on December 22—Powell says that a guard station and decontamination truck were removed prior to the arrival of inspectors. Powell does not explain how he knows that the truck in the photograph was a decontamination truck. [Washington Post, 2/6/03h; The White House, 2/6/03; Washington Post, 2/6/03]
Communication intercepts demonstrate Iraqi attempts to conceal information from inspectors - Powell plays recordings of three conversations intercepted by US Intelligence—one on November 26, another on January 30, and a third, a “few weeks” before. The conversations suggest that the Iraqis were attempting to hide evidence from inspectors. [New York Times, 2/5/03; Sydney Morning Herald, 2/7/03; Times, 2/6/03; The White House, 2/6/03]
Senior administration officials concede to The Washington Post that it was not known “what military items were discussed in the intercepts.” [Washington Post, 2/13/03] Some critics argue that the intercepts were presented out of context and open to interpretation. [Sydney Morning Herald, 2/9/03; Sydney Morning Herald, 2/7/03] Others note that the conversations were translated from Arabic by US translators and were not analyzed or verified by an independent specialist. [Newsday, 2/6/03]
Biological weapons factories - Colin Powell says that US intelligence has “firsthand descriptions” that Iraq has 18 mobile biological weapons factories mounted on trucks and railroad cars. Information about the mobile weapons labs are based on the testimonies of four sources—a defected Iraqi chemical engineer who claims to have supervised one of these facilities, an Iraqi civil engineer (see December 20, 2001), a source in “a position to know,” and a defected Iraqi major (see February 11, 2002). Powell says that the mobile units are capable of producing enough dry biological agent in a single month to kill several thousand people. He shows computer-generated diagrams and pictures based on the sources' descriptions of the facilities. Colin Powell says that according to the chemical engineer, during the late 1990s, Iraq's biological weapons scientists would often begin the production of pathogens on Thursday nights and complete the process on Fridays in order to evade UNSCOM inspectors whom Iraq believed would not conduct inspections on the Muslim holy day. [Washington Post 2/5/03d; Reuters, 2/8/02; The White House, 2/6/03; New York Times, 2/5/03]
Responding to the allegation, Iraqi officials will concede that they do in fact have mobile labs, but insist that they are not used for the development of weapons. According to the Iraqis, the mobile labs are used for food analysis for disease outbreaks, mobile field hospitals, a military field bakery, food and medicine refrigeration trucks, a mobile military morgue and mobile ice making trucks. [Guardian, 2/5/03; ABC News, 5/21/03] Iraq's explanation is consistent with earlier assessments of the UN weapons inspectors. Before Powell's presentation, Hans Blix had dismissed suggestions that the Iraqis were using mobile biological weapons labs, reporting that inspections of two alleged mobile labs had turned up nothing. “Two food-testing trucks have been inspected and nothing has been found,” Blix said. And Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, said, “The outline and characteristics of these trucks that we inspected were all consistent with the declared purposes.” [The Guardian, 2/5/03; ABC News, 5/21/03] Powell's case is further damaged when it is later learned that one of the sources Powell cited, the Iraqi major, had been earlier judged unreliable by intelligence agents at the Defense Intelligence Agency (see February 11, 2002). In May 2002, the analysts had issued a “fabricator notice” on the informant, noting that he had been “coached by Iraqi National Congress” (see May 2002). But the main source for the claim had been an Iraqi defector known as “Curveball,” who turned out to be the brother of a top aide to Ahmed Chalabi. The source claimed to be a chemical engineer who had helped design and build the mobile labs. His information was passed to Washington through Germany's intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), which had been introduced to the source by the Iraqi National Congress (INC). In passing along the information, the BND noted that there were “various problems with the source.” And only one member of the US intelligence community had actually met with the person—an unnamed Pentagon analyst who determined the man was an alcoholic and of dubious reliability. Yet both the DIA and the CIA validated the information. [Newsweek, 4/19/04; Newsweek, 7/19/04; Knight Ridder, 3/28/04; Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, 08/22/03; Knight Ridder, 4/4/04 Sources: Unnamed Pentagon analyst, Unnamed current and former US intelligence officials, Unnamed senior US officials, Unnamed senior German security official] In addition to the inspectors' assessments and the dubious nature of the sources Powell cited, there are numerous other problems with the mobile factories claim. Raymond Zilinskas, a microbiologist and former UN weapons inspector, argues that significant amounts of pathogens such as anthrax, could not be produced in the short span of time suggested in Powell's speech. “You normally would require 36 to 48 hours just to do the fermentation .... The short processing time seems suspicious to me.” He also says: “The only reason you would have mobile labs is to avoid inspectors, because everything about them is difficult. We know it is possible to build them—the United States developed mobile production plants, including one designed for an airplane—but it's a big hassle. That's why this strikes me as a bit far-fetched.” [Washington Post, 2/5/03d] After the Powell's speech, Blix will say in his March 7 report to the UN that his inspectors found no evidence of mobile weapons labs (see March 7, 2003). [Blix, 3/7/03; CNN, 3/7/03; Agence France Presse, 3/7/03; UNMOVIC, 3/7/03]
Iraq is developing unmanned drones capable of deliverying weapons of mass destruction - Powell asserts that Iraq has flight-tested an unmanned drone capable of flying up to 310 miles and is working on a liquid-fueled ballistic missile with a range of 745 miles. He plays a video of an Iraqi F-1 Mirage jet dispersing “simulated anthrax.” [New York Times, 2/5/03; Washington Post, 2/5/03f; The White House, 2/6/03]
But the Associated Press will later report that the video was made prior to the 1991 Gulf War. Apparently, three of the four spray tanks shown in the film had been destroyed during the 1991 military intervention. [Associated Press, 8/9/03]
Imported Aluminum tubes were meant for centrifuge - Powell argues that the aluminum tubes which Iraq had attempted to import in July 2001 (see July 2001) were meant to be used in a nuclear weapons program and not for artillery rockets as experts from the US Energy Department, the INR, and the IAEA have been arguing (see February 3, 2003) (see January 11, 2003) (see (Mid-July 2001)-August 17, 2001) (see January 27, 2003). To support the administration's case, he cites unusually precise specifications and high tolerances for heat and stress. “It strikes me as quite odd that these tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that far exceeds US requirements for comparable rockets,” he says. “Maybe Iraqis just manufacture their conventional weapons to a higher standard than we do, but I don't think so.” Powell also suggests that because the tubes were “anodized,” it was unlikely that they had been designed for conventional use. [The White House, 2/6/03; Washington Post, 2/5/03; Washington Post, 3/8/03]
Powell does not mention that numerous US nuclear scientists have dismissed this claim (see (Mid-July 2001)-August 17, 2001) (see September 23, 2002) (see December 2002). [Institute for Science and International Security, 10/9/03] Powell also fails to say that Iraq has rockets identical to the Italian Medusa 81 mm rockets, which are of the same dimensions and made of the same alloy as the 3,000 tubes that were intercepted in July 2001 (see After January 22, 2003). [Washington Post, 8/10/03] This had been reported just two weeks earlier by the Washington Post. [Washington Post, 1/24/03] Moreover, just two days before, Powell was explicitly warned by the US State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research not to cite the aluminum tubes as evidence that Iraq is pursuing nuclear weapons (see February 3, 2003). [Financial Times, 7/29/03]
Iraq attempted to acquire magnets for use in a gas centrifuge program - Powell says: “We ... have intelligence from multiple sources that Iraq is attempting to acquire magnets and high-speed balancing machines. Both items can be used in a gas centrifuge program to enrich uranium. In 1999 and 2000, Iraqi officials negotiated with firms in Romania, India, Russia and Slovenia for the purchase of a magnet production plant. Iraq wanted the plant to produce magnets weighing 20 to 30 grams. That's the same weight as the magnets used in Iraq's gas centrifuge program before the Gulf War.” [The White House, 2/6/03; New York Times, 2/5/03; New York Times, 2/6/03b]
Investigation by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] will demonstrate that the magnets have a dual use. IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said a little more than a week before, on January 27, in his report to the Security Council: “Iraq presented detailed information on a project to construct a facility to produce magnets for the Iraqi missile program, as well as for industrial applications, and that Iraq had prepared a solicitation of offers, but that the project had been delayed due to ‘financial credit arrangements.’ Preliminary investigations indicate that the specifications contained in the offer solicitation are consistent with those required for the declared intended uses. However, the IAEA will continue to investigate the matter ....” (see January 27, 2003) [Sources: Letter dated January, 27 2003 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council] On March 7, ElBaradei will provide an additional update: “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.” (see March 7, 2003) [CNN, 3/7/03]
Iraq attempted to purchase machines to balance centrifuge rotors - Powell states: “Intercepted communications from mid-2000 through last summer show that Iraq front companies sought to buy machines that can be used to balance gas centrifuge rotors. One of these companies also had been involved in a failed effort in 2001 to smuggle aluminum tubes into Iraq.” [New York Times, 2/6/03b; New York Times, 2/5/03; The White House, 2/6/03]

Powell cites the documents removed from the home of Iraqi scientist Faleh Hassan - Powell cites the documents that had been found on January 16, 2003 by inspectors with the help of US intelligence at the Baghdad home of Faleh Hassan, a nuclear scientist. Powell asserts that the papers are a “dramatic confirmation” that Saddam Hussein is concealing evidence and not cooperating with the inspections. The 3,000 documents contained information relating to the laser enrichment of uranium (see January 16, 2003). [The White House, 2/6/03; Hassan, 1/19/03; Daily Telegraph, 1/18/03; Associated Press, 1/18/03]
A little more than a week later, in the inspectors' February 14 update to the UN Security Council (see February 14, 2003), ElBaradei will say, “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.” [Associated Press, 8/9/03; BBC, 2/17/03; Guardian, 2/15/03b]
Iraq is hiding missiles in the desert - Powell says that according to unidentified sources, the Iraqis have hidden rocket launchers and warheads containing biological weapons in the western desert. He further contends that these caches of weapons are hidden in palm groves and moved to different locations on a weekly basis. [The White House, 2/6/03]
It will later be suggested that this claim was “lifted whole from an Iraqi general's written account of hiding missiles in the 1991 war.” [Associated Press, 8/9/03]
Iraq a few dozen scud missiles - Powell also says that according to unnamed “intelligence sources,” Iraq has a few dozen Scud-type missiles. [Associated Press, 8/9/03]

Iraq has weapons of mass destruction - Secretary of State Colin Powell states unequivocally: “We ... have satellite photos that indicate that banned materials have recently been moved from a number of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction facilities. There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.” Elsewhere in his speech he says: “We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.” [US Department of State, 2/5/03; CNN, 2/5/03]

Reaction - The speech does little to change minds on the Security Council. France, Russia, and China remain opposed to the idea of a new resolution that would pave the way for the US to invade Iraq. These countries say that Powell's speech demonstrates that inspections are working and must be allowed to continue. “Immediately after Powell spoke, the foreign ministers of France, Russia and China—all of which hold veto power—rejected the need for imminent military action and instead said the solution was more inspections,” reports The Washington Post. But governments who have been supportive of the United States' aggressive stance remain firmly behind Washington. [Washington Post, 2/7/03; Washington Post, 2/6/03]
The press' response to Powell's evidence is also mixed. The Times of London, a relatively conservative daily newspaper, describes Powell's presentation as a “few smudgy satellite photographs, a teaspoon of talcum powder, some Lego-style drawings of sinister trucks and trains, a picture of an American U2 spy plane, several mugshots of Arabic men and a script that required a suspension of mistrust by the world's doves.” [Times, 2/6/03] The Washington Post opinion pages, however, are filled with praises for the speech. [New York Review of Books, 2/26/04] The editorial proclaims that after the presentation, it is “hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.” [Washington Post, 2/6/04]
People and organizations involved: Mohamed ElBaradei, Raymond Zilinskas, Faleh Hassan, Hans Blix, Iraqi National Congress, Colin Powell, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Saddam Hussein  Additional Info 
          


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