When Dr. David Kay released his summary statement of the long-awaited Iraq Survey Group’s (ISG) interim report, headlines across the country screamed that Kay and his 1,300-man team had found no weapons of mass destruction. The headlines were correct, but were hardly the whole story, and Kay himself has repeatedly faulted the media for failing to detail the report’s other critical findings.
For instance, the ISG discovered that Saddam Hussein-in defiance of United Nations resolutions and up until Operation Iraqi Freedom began-was eagerly seeking to secure nuclear weaponry and was continuing to work on other deadly bio-terror organisms, including anthrax and botulinum toxin. But the media ignored or downplayed the point.
In an interview with reporters, Dr. Kay said he believes that Saddam, supplied with enriched unranium or plutonium, could have made a nuclear bomb in less than a year.
Iraq’s intelligence service had also set up an extensive and secret network of laboratories and facilities that were suitable for biological warfare purposes. Saddam had advanced design work for new, long-range missiles-in violation of U.N. resolutions, which would have allowed Iraq to threaten nations throughout the Middle East.
So far as having failed to find stockpiles of WMDs, Dr. Kay repeatedly stressed that this was just an “interim” report and that the difficulty in actually discovering the weapons themselves has been vastly underrated. Not only did Saddam make enormous efforts to hide and disperse Iraq’s WMD activities, but he and his allies engaged in a systematic effort-prior, during and post major combat operations-to destroy “important and easily collectable material and forensic evidence concerning Iraq’s WMD program.”
The arduous nature of the ISG’s task was brought out by Dr. Kay in several interviews. Iraq had 600,000 to 650,000 tons of conventional armament scattered over 130 ammunition storage points. To find out which of these storage areas were also stocked with chemical munitions is a “tough go,” in Dr. Kay’s words. “These are sites that are larger than 50 square miles in most cases,” and, so far, Kay’s team has covered just 10 sites in three months-fewer than 8% of the total number to be analyzed. That’s one of the reasons he believes it will take another six to nine months to come up with a far more accurate picture of what Saddam’s weapons capability really was prior to the war.
Dr. Kay notes another gigantic obstacle to finding these elusive WMDs-one also seldom mentioned in the media: Iraqis in a position to tell us about Saddam’s weapons program have been subjected to lethal violence, with one Iraqi scientist having been murdered immediately after cooperating with Kay’s Survey Group. Hence, Dr. Kay is forcefully urging journalists and others not to make a rush to judgment on the pre-war intelligence assessments of Iraq’s deadly arsenal-and take a closer look at the ISG report.
Excerpts from the Kay Report
Dr. David Kay, a former chief U.N. weapons inspector, is currently the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq and head of the Iraq Survey Group, which recently prepared a progress report for Congress on its search for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. The following are key excerpts from that report. Italicization and bold type have been added by HUMAN EVENTS for emphasis.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
“Iraq’s WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and were elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” states the Kay summary report.
Kay’s report also says his survey team “discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002.” These “deliberate concealment efforts” have been acknowledged by “Iraqi scientists and officials” and confirmed “through physical evidence of equipment and activities.”
Saddam’s Nuclear Program
“With regard to Iraq’s nuclear program,” says Kay’s statement, “the testimony we have obtained from Iraqi scientists and senior government officials should clear up any doubts about whether Saddam still wanted to obtain nuclear weapons. They have told ISG that Saddam Hussein remained firmly committed to acquiring nuclear weapons.
“These officials assert that Saddam would have resumed nuclear weapons development at some future point. . . . At least one senior Iraqi official believed that by 2000 Saddam had run out of patience with waiting for sanctions to end and wanted to restart the nuclear program. The Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission . . . beginning around 1999 expanded its laboratories and research activities and increased its overall funding levels. This expansion may have been in initial preparation for renewed nuclear weapons research . . .”
According to a cache of documents and the testimony of Iraqi scientists, “some of the key technical groups from the pre-1991 nuclear weapons program remained largely intact” and scientists involved in that enterprise “believed that these working groups were preserved” for future use. Asked by ABC-TV’s George Stephanopoulos whether President Bush was right in saying there was evidence that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, Kay responded: “What we have found is, indeed, there were indications in 1999 and 2000 of new money flowing into the nuclear program,” albeit in a “very nascent start-up of that program.”
When you were the “chief U.N. weapons inspector” in 1991, said Stephanpoulos, “you said Iraq was 12 to 18 months away from producing a nuclear bomb. Can you make that same claim now?” If Iraq were furnished with enriched uranium or plutonium, said Kay, “I think it would have taken them a year or less to fabricate a weapon from that material.”
With regard to “biological warfare [BW] activities,” says the Kay summary, “ISG teams are uncovering significant information-including research and development of BW-applicable organisms, the involvement of Iraqi Intelligence Service in possible BW activities, and deliberate concealment activities. All of this suggests Iraq after 1996 . . . focused on maintaining smaller, covert capabilities that could be activated quickly to surge the production of BW agents.”
Two important BW scientists have “confirmed that Iraq under the guise of legitimate activity developed refinements of processes and products relevant to BW agents. The scientists discussed the development of improved, simplified fermentation and spray drying capabilities for the simulant Bt that would have been directly applicable to anthrax, and one scientist confirmed that the production line for Bt could be switched to produce anthrax in one week if the seed stock were available.”
Clandestine Bio-Weapons Labs
The debriefing of Iraqi intelligence officials, coupled with visits to various sites, according to the Kay report, has begun “to unravel a clandestine network of laboratories and facilities within the security service apparatus. This network was never declared to the U.N. and was previously unknown. . . . [T]his clandestine capability was suitable for preserving BW expertise, BW-capable facilities and continuing R&D-all key elements for maintaining a capability for resuming BW production.”
The Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) also played a “prominent role in sponsoring students for overseas graduate studies in the biological sciences, according to Iraqi scientists and IIS sources, providing an important avenue for furthering BW-applicable research. This was the only area of graduate work that the IIS appeared to sponsor.”
“The environment in Iraq remains far from permissive for our activities,” states the Kay summary, “with many Iraqis that we talk to reporting threats and overt acts of intimidation and our own personnel being the subject of threats and attacks. In September alone we have had three attacks on ISG facilities or teams.
“The ISG base in Irbil was bombed and four staff injured, two very seriously; a two person team had their vehicle blocked by gunmen and only escaped by firing back through their own windshield and on Wednesday, 24 September, the ISG Headquarters in Baghdad again was subject to mortar attack.”
In his interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Kay said: “We’ve been honest about the threats that scientists have been under. We’ve had one scientist who was killed immediately after talking to us, another who took six bullets, and it’s amazing to me he wasn’t killed, others who report continuing threats.”
“With regard to delivery systems,” says the Kay report, “the ISG team has discovered sufficient evidence to date to conclude that the Iraqi regime was committed to delivery system improvements that would have, if the OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] had not occurred, dramatically breached U.N. restrictions placed on Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War.
“Detainees and co-operative sources indicate that beginning in 2000 Saddam ordered the development of ballistic missiles with ranges of at least 400 km and up to 1000 km and that measures to conceal these projects from [UN inspectors] were initiated in late 2002, ahead of the arrival of inspectors.” The Kay summary also says there were “clandestine attempts between late 1999 and 2002 to obtain from North Korea technology related to 1300 km range ballistic missiles . . .”
Missiles with a 1000 km range “would have allowed Iraq to threaten targets throughout the Middle East, including Ankara, Cairo and Abu Dhabi.”
“A very large body of information,” states the Kay report, “has been developed through debriefings, site visits and exploitation of captured Iraqi documents that confirms that Iraq concealed equipment and materials from U.N. inspectors when they returned in 2002. One noteworthy example is a collection of reference strains that ought to have been declared to the UN.
“Among them was a vial of live C. botulinum Okra B from which a biological agent can be produced. This discovery-hidden in the home of a BW scientist-illustrates the point . . . about the difficulty of locating small stocks of material that can be used to covertly surge production of deadly weapons. The scientist who concealed the vials containing this agent has identified a large cache of agents that he was asked, but refused, to conceal.”
Sanitizing the Evidence
The Kay report further notes: “In addition to the discovery of extensive concealment efforts, we have been faced with a systematic sanitization of documentary and computer evidence in a wide range of offices, laboratories and companies suspected of WMD work. The pattern of these efforts to erase evidence-hard drives destroyed, specific files burned, equipment cleaned of all traces of use-are ones of deliberate, rather than random acts. . . .
“Although much of the deliberate destruction and sanitization of documents and records probably occurred during the height of OIF combat operations, indications of significant continuing destruction efforts have been found after the end of major combat operations, including entry in May 2003 of the locked, gated vaults of the Ba’ath Party intelligence building in Baghdad and highly selective destruction of computer hard drives and data storage equipment, along with the burning of a small number of specific binders that appear to have contained financial and intelligence records, and in July 2003 a site exploitation team at the Abu Ghurayb Prison found one pile of the smoldering ashes from documents that was still warm to the touch.”