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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 (4)
Biological weapons trailers

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 has 18 mobile biological weapons factories mounted on trucks and railroad cars'


Project: Inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq

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January 27, 1998

       Ahmed Chalabi meets Scott Ritter, a liaison for the UN weapons inspectors program, in his London apartment. When Chalabi asks Ritter what kind of information inspectors need, Ritter discloses all of inspectors' intelligence gaps. “I should have asked him what he could give me,” Ritter later tells the New Yorker. “We made the biggest mistake in the intelligence business: we identified all of our gaps.” The New Yorker reports: “Ritter outlines most of the UN inspectors' capabilities and theories, telling Chalabi how they had searched for underground bunkers with ground-penetrating radar. He also told Chalabi of his suspicion that Saddam may have had mobile chemical- or biological-weapons laboratories. ... ” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Scott Ritter, Ahmed Chalabi

December 20, 2001

       Zaab Sethna of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) arranges Iraqi defector Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri to be interviewed by Judith Miller of the New York Times. Miller, who has known Chalabi for about eight years (see May 1, 2003), immediately flies out to Bangkok for the interview. Her story is published on December 20, just three days after Haideri told his story to a CIA agent who subjected him to a polygraph and determined Haideri's story was a complete fabrication (see December 17, 2001). Miller's front-page article, titled “An Iraqi defector tells of work on at least 20 hidden weapons sites,” reports: “An Iraqi defector who described himself as a civil engineer, said he personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas and under the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad as recently as a year ago.” If verified, Miller notes, “his allegations would provide ammunition to officials within the Bush administration who have been arguing that Mr. Hussein should be driven from power partly because of his unwillingness to stop making weapons of mass destruction, despite his pledges to do so.” Sethna also contacts freelance journalist Paul Moran. Moran is a former employee of the INC and has been employed for years by the Rendon Group, a firm specializing in “perception management.” Moran's on-camera interview with Haideri is broadcasted worldwide by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. [Rolling Stone, 11/17/2005; New York Times, 12/20/01; New York Review of Books 2/26/04; SBS Dateline, 7/23/2003]
People and organizations involved: Zaab Sethna, Ahmed Chalabi, Judith Miller, Paul Moran, Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri


       The CIA clandestine service's European division chief meets with a German intelligence officer to discuss intelligence that has been provided by an Iraqi source known as “Curveball” Curveball alleges that Iraq previously had mobile biological weapons labs. But according to the German, it is not clear “whether Curveball was actually telling the truth.” [Washington Post, 5/21/2005] Vincent Cannistraro, a former counter-terrorism specialist, will tell the New Yorker in 2004 that the CIA believes the person who set Curveball up with the Germans was Aras Habib, the INC intelligence chief later accused of providing US intelligence to Iran. “The CIA is positive of it,” he says. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Aras Habib

Between February 12, 2002 and March 31, 2002

       After several meetings with Mohammad Harith (see February 11, 2002) —an Iraqi defector provided by the Iraqi National Congress—a Defense Intelligence Agency debriefer determines that the defector's information on Iraq's presumed arsenal of banned weapons seems “accurate, but much of it [apears] embellished.” Defense Intelligence Agency analysts also determine that the defected Iraqi has been “coached by the Iraqi National Congress.” Harith claimed that he was a major in an Iraqi intelligence unit charged with concealing illicit weapons and that Iraq has developed mobile biological weapons labs. [Knight Ridder, 7/16/04]
People and organizations involved: Mohammad Harith, Iraqi National Congress

May 2002

       Defense Intelligence Agency analysts issue a “fabricator notice,” warning the intelligence community that the agency has determined (see Between February 12, 2002 and March 31, 2002) that Iraqi defector Mohammad Harith is of questionable reliability and recommending that agencies disregard any intelligence that he has provided. It also notes that Harith had been “coached by [the] Iraqi National Congress” on what to tell US interrogators. [Knight Ridder, 7/16/04; Reuters, 2/18/04; New York Times 2/13/04; Newsweek, 2/16/04 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence official] The classified memo is “widely circulated within intelligence agencies, including the DIA and CIA,” Newsweek will later report, citing unnamed intelligence officials. [Newsweek, 2/16/04 Sources: Linton Wells, Unnamed US Intelligence Officials] Almost a year later, in a presentation to the UN, Secretary of State Colin Powell will make the claim that Iraq has mobile biological weapons labs (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003), and cite Harith as one of intelligence's four sources. Explaining how the reference to a dubious source made its way into Powell's speech, the State Department will say that the “fabricator notice” had not been properly cross-referenced in intelligence computers. [Newsweek, 2/16/04]
People and organizations involved: Defense Intelligence Agency, Iraqi National Congress

January 27, 2003

       The CIA's Berlin station chief warns CIA headquarters that information on the alleged mobile biological units supplied by Iraqi defector “Curveball” should not be used in Bush's state of the union speech. The station chief explains that the German intelligence service does not consider Curveball a reliable source and that it has been unable to confirm the defector's statements. [Washington Post, 5/21/2005]

January 28, 2003

       Bush gives his State of the Union address, making several false allegations about Iraq. [US President, 1/28/03]
He says, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities.... He clearly has much to hide.” [US President, 1/28/03; Independent, 6/5/03; White House website]
The British allegation cited by Bush concerns a SISMI (Italy's military intelligence) report (see (Mid-October 2001)) based on a set of forged documents. Months after the speech, with evidence mounting that the statement was completely false, the administration will retract this claim (see July 11, 2003). [Independent, 8/10/03a Sources: Wissam al-Zahawie]
Bush alleges that a shipment of aluminum tubes imported by Iraq were intended to be used in the country's alleged nuclear weapons program. “Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.” [US President, 1/28/03]

Bush accuses Iraq of having enough material “to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax—enough doses to kill several million people ... more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin—enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure ... as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.” [Washington Post, 1/28/03]

Bush alleges: “Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say.” [White House, 1/28/03]
But Hans Blix, the chief UNMOVIC weapons inspector, tells the New York Times in an interview that he knows of no evidence supporting that claim. [New York Times, 1/31/03] Bush says, “We know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile weapons labs . . . designed to produce germ warfare agents and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors,” citing “three Iraqi defectors” as sources of the information. One of the defectors referred to by Bush is “Curveball,” whom the CIA station chief in Germany warned was not reliable the day before (see January 27, 2003). Another source for the claim was Mohammad Harith, whom the Defense Intelligence Agency had labeled a “fabricator” the previous May (see May 2002).
People and organizations involved: Hans Blix, George W. Bush  Additional Info 

April 19, 2003

       US authorities in Iraq seize a trailer at a checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul. The government will later claim that this trailer, as well as another one that is discovered on May 9 (see May 9, 2003), is a mobile biological weapons lab. [ABC News, 5/21/03; Houston Chronicle, 5/9/03]

May 9, 2003

       The US Army's 101st Airborne Division finds a second trailer at al-Kindi, a former missile research facility in Iraq. The government will later claim that this trailer, as well as another one discovered on April 19 (see April 19, 2003), is a mobile biological weapons lab. [ABC News, 5/21/03; Houston Chronicle, 5/9/03; Department of Defense, 5/13/03]

May 28, 2003

       The CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency [DIA] issue a 6-page white paper titled, “Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants,” concluding that the two trailers discovered in northern Iraq were designed to produce biological weapons. It calls the discovery, “the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program.” The assessment is based on a comparison of the trailers to descriptions that had been provided by Iraqi sources prior to the invasion. The report also claims that there are no other plausible explanations for the trailers' purpose, [New York Times, 6/26/03; New York Times, 6/7/03] though the report does mention that Iraqis working at the al-Kindi research facility in Mosul, as well as a company that manufactured components for the trailers, say the trailers were built to make hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. [Los Angeles Times, 6/21/03] The document is not without its dissenters. Some DIA analysts reportedly disagree with the paper's finding. [New York Times, 8/9/03; New York Times, 6/26/03] It is later learned that the report was completed before the investigation had run its full course. A week after the report's release, laboratories in the Middle East and the United States were still analyzing more than 100 samples that had been taken from the trailers. A senior analyst tells the New York Times that the white paper “was a rushed job and looks political.” [New York Times, 6/7/03] It is also discovered the two agencies did not consult with other intelligence offices. Normally such reports are not finalized until there is a consensus among the government's numerous intelligence agencies. “The exclusion of the State Department's intelligence bureau and other agencies seemed unusual, several government officials said, because of the high-profile subject,” the New York Times will later report. Moreover, the State Department's intelligence agency was not even informed that the report was being prepared. [New York Times, 6/26/03]

2:28 p.m. May 29, 2003

       In an interview with Polish TV station TVP, hours before leaving on a seven-day trip to Europe and the Middle East, Bush says: “We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.” [White House, 5/29/03; Washington Post, 5/31/03]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush

May 30, 2003

       In an interview with a Polish television station, President Bush refers to the two trailers that had been found in northern Iraq in April as evidence that the US had “found the weapons of mass destruction.” [New York Times, 6/26/03; New York Times, 6/27/03; Sheperd Express, 7/10/03]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush

June 2, 2003

       The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research authors a classified memo addressed to Colin Powell, informing him that current intelligence did not support the conclusion of the joint CIA-DIA May 28 white paper (see May 28, 2003) which concluded that the two trailers found in Iraq were mobile biological weapon factories. The memo also says that the CIA and DIA were wrong in asserting that there were no other plausible uses for the trailer, suggesting that the two pieces of equipment may have been designed for refueling Iraqi missiles. [New York Times, 6/26/03; CBS News, 6/27/03; Fox News, 6/26/03 Sources: Unnamed US government officials]
People and organizations involved: Colin Powell

June 3, 2003

       Speaking on CNBC's Capital Report, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice claims to know the purpose for the mobile trailers discovered after the Iraq invasion. “But let's remember what we've already found. Secretary Powell on February 5 (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003) talked about a mobile, biological weapons capability. That has now been found and this is a weapons laboratory trailers capable of making a lot of agent that—dry agent, dry biological agent that can kill a lot of people. So we are finding these pieces that were described.” [Iraq on the Record database, 3/16/04]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice

June 3, 2003

       On CNBC's Capital Report, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice asserts having information from “multiple sources” which confirm the existence of weapons-producing units “exactly like” the discovered trailers. “We know that these trailers look exactly like what was described to us by multiple sources as the capabilities for building or for making biological agents. We know that we have from multiple sources who told us that then and sources who have confirmed it now. Now the Iraqis were not stupid about this. They were able to conceal a lot. They've been able to scrub things down. But I think when the whole picture comes out, we will see that this was an active program.” [Iraq on the Record database, 3/16/04]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice

June 8, 2003

       National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice repeats claims from her White House briefing ten days earlier (see May 28, 2003) that trailers discovered in Iraq support Secretary of State Colin Powell's allegations set out in February before the United Nations “Already, we've discovered, uh, uh, trailers, uh, that look remarkably similar to what Colin Powell described in his February 5th speech,” biological weapons production facilities. [Iraq on the Record database, 3/16/04; US Defense Department, 6/9/03; United States Marine Corps, 6/9/03]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice

June 8, 2003

       National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice appears on the major US networks and continues her assurances that the US military found proof Iraq possessed banned weapons “We are confident that we—I believe that we will find them. I think that we have already found important clues like the biological weapons laboratories that look surprisingly like what Colin Powell described in his speech (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003).” [Iraq on the Record database, 3/16/04; US Defense Department, 6/9/03]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice

Late June 2003

       US and British intelligence experts conclude that the two trailers found in northern Iraq—which the Bush administration continues to insist are mobile biological weapon factories—are part of an Artillery Meteorological System sold to Iraq in 1987 by the British company AMS, then known as Marconi Command & Control. The mobile system is designed to chemically produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. The trailers “are not mobile germ warfare laboratories,” a British scientist and biological weapons expert tells The Observer of London. “You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were—facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.” [Observer, 6/8/03; Observer, 6/15/03] Similarly, an unnamed intelligence source tells the Los Angeles Times that “he is convinced that the seized trailers were indeed designed to produce hydrogen gas to fill weather balloons that were routinely used by Iraqi field artillery batteries.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/21/03] Interestingly, it is revealed that the US military itself possesses 19 trailers (AN/TMQ-42 Hydrogen Generators) designed to produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. [Los Angeles Times, 6/21/03] There are several reasons why experts do not believe the trailers were involved in the production of biological weapons. Firstly, no trace of pathogens are detected in the trailers' suspected fermentation tanks. [Observer, 6/8/03] Secondly, the trailers had canvas sides which would not have made sense if they were meant to be used as biological weapon labs. “The canvas tarps covering the sides of the trucks appeared designed to be pulled away to let excess heat and gas escape during the production of hydrogen. The trailers had canvas sides,” explains one source to the Los Angeles Times. “The tarps would allow in far too much road dust and other contamination if the equipment inside were meant to produce biowarfare agents.” [Observer, 6/8/03; Observer, 6/8/03 Sources: Unnamed veteran intelligence official] Thirdly, there was a “shortage of pumps required to create vacuum conditions required for working with germ cultures and other processes usually associated with making biological weapons.” [Observer, 6/8/03] Fourthly, the trailers had no “autoclave for steam sterilization, normally a prerequisite for any kind of biological production.” Without a means to sterilize “between production runs would threaten to let in germ contaminants, resulting in failed weapons.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/21/03; Observer, 6/8/03; New York Times, 6/7/03 Sources: William C. Patrick III, Unnamed veteran intelligence official] Lastly, there was no “easy way for technicians to remove germ fluids from the processing tank.” [New York Times, 6/7/03; Los Angeles Times, 6/21/03; Observer, 6/8/03]

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