Intel Report: 500 Chemical Munitions Found in Iraq

Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.) and House Intelligence Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R.-Mich.) held a press conference last week to highlight the findings in a recent intelligence report that said more than 500 chemical munitions have been discovered in Iraq since 2003.

The report, produced by the National Intelligence Ground Center in April, was partially declassified last week by National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte at the request of Santorum and Hoekstra. The declassified findings state:

  • “Since 2003, Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent.”
  • “Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.”
  • “Pre-Gulf War Iraqi chemical weapons could be sold on the black market.  Use of these weapons by terrorists or insurgent groups would have implications for Coalition forces in Iraq.  The possibility of use outside Iraq cannot be ruled out.”
  • “The most likely munitions remaining are sarin- and mustard-filled projectiles.”
  • “The purity of the agent inside the munitions depends on many factors, including the manufacturing process, potential additives and environmental storage conditions.  While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal.”
  • “It has been reported in open press that insurgents and Iraqi groups desire to acquire and use chemical weapons.”

Hoekstra described the weapons as “mustard- or sarin-filled projectiles.” In a June 12 letter to Gen. John DeFreitas asking for the report to be released, Santorum said, “[M]y office has learned that approximately 75% of these weapons consist of 122mm rockets that have been filled with or have the capability to be filled with chemical agents.”

The establishment media largely ignored release of the intelligence report. The Washington Post covered it in a 215-word piece that ran on page A10. It characterized the declassified report as “regarding 500 chemical munitions shells that had been buried near the Iranian border, and then long forgotten, by Iraqi troops during their eight-year war with Iran, which ended in 1988.” The Post also reported that “the U.S. military announced in 2004 that Iraq had several crates of old shells that had been uncovered” which contained inactive blister agents.

That may have been referring to a January 2004 announcement by military officials in Baghdad that Danish and Icelandic troops had discovered a cache of 36 shells that contained a liquid blister agent north of Basra.

Neither Hoekstra nor Santorum would say whether the Post’s story was accurate or where the weapons were found because it was not part of the information declassified by the NID. House Permanent Select Intelligence Spokesman Jamal Ware said, “I have no idea where the Post got that particular information.”

Hoekstra told reporters, “Agents do degrade over time, but they remain hazardous and lethal.” Both he and Santorum said the declassified report demonstrates that previous reports and hearings on weapons of mass destruction were incomplete.

“Remember the Iraq Survey Group was in Iraq for about 16 months, employing up to 1,700 people? They didn’t find many chemical weapons,” said Hoekstra. “And since that period of time, we’ve found hundreds. The full-blown effort to discover these caches of weapons stopped a year and a half ago and this is the kind of stuff we’re still finding.”