View Full Version : U.S. team that sought Iraqi arms is removed

01-08-2004, 11:07 PM

U.S. team that sought Iraqi arms is removed
By Douglas Jehl (NYT)
Friday, January 9, 2004

WASHINGTON: The Bush administration has quietly withdrawn from Iraq a 400-member military team whose job was to scour the country for military equipment, according to senior government officials.

The step was described by some military officials as a sign that the administration might have lowered its sights and no longer expects to uncover the caches of chemical and biological weapons that the White House cited as a principal reason for going to war in March.

A separate military team that specializes in disposing of chemical and biological weapons remains part of the 1,400-member Iraq Survey Group, which has been searching Iraq for more that seven months at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. But that team is "still waiting for something to dispose of," a survey group member said.

Some of the government officials said the most important evidence from the weapons hunt might be contained in a vast collection of seized Iraqi documents being stored in a secret military warehouse in Qatar. Only a small fraction have been translated.

A report published Wednesday in The Washington Post cited a previously undisclosed document that suggested that Iraq might have destroyed its biological weapons as early as 1991. The report said investigators had otherwise found no evidence to support U.S. beliefs that Iraq had maintained illicit weapons dating from the 1991 Gulf War or that it had advanced programs to build new ones.

The report also documented a pattern of deceit in every field of special weaponry. It said that according to Iraqi designers and foreign investigators, program managers exaggerated the results they could achieve, or even promised results they knew they could not accomplish - all in an effort to appease Saddam Hussein. In some cases, though, they simply did it to advance their careers, the report said, or preserve jobs or even conduct intrigues against their rivals.

Senior intelligence officials acknowledged in recent days that the weapons hunters still had not found arms or active programs, but in interviews they said the search must continue to ensure that no weapons surface in a future attack.

"We worry about what may have happened to those weapons," Stuart Cohen, the vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, said in an interview on U.S. television late Tuesday. "Theories abound as to what may have happened."

The search for Iraqi weapons remains "the primary focus" of the survey group, a senior Defense Department official said. But he acknowledged that most of the dozens of new linguists and intelligence analysts to join the team recently had been given assignments related to combating the Iraqi insurgency rather than to the weapons search.

David Kay, the head of the survey group, suggested last month that he might leave his post. Government officials said Wednesday that he had not reached a decision, but that both he and his top deputy, Major General Keith Dayton of the Defense Intelligence Agency, were in Washington, in part to discuss the hunt. Through their spokesmen, Kay and Dayton declined repeated requests for interviews.

Bill Harlow, a spokesman for the CIA, said on Wednesday that the team needed to compete its work and that no one should jump to any conclusions before it had an opportunity to examine all of the circumstances.

U.S. intelligence officials who described the seized documents said they hoped they might eventually help to unravel the mystery of whether Iraqi weapons remained hidden or whether they were destroyed long before what the Bush administration initially portrayed as a mission "to disarm Iraq."

In the television interview, Cohen, who led the team that formally concluded in October 2002 that Iraq possessed both chemical and biological weapons, insisted that it was "too soon to close the books on this case."

A report released Thursday by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concluded that it was unlikely that Iraq could have destroyed, hidden or sent out of the country the hundreds of tons of chemical and biological weapons and related production facilities that U.S. officials claimed were present "without the United States detecting some sign of this activity."

The Iraqi documents cover subjects extending far beyond illicit weapons, according to senior military officials.

The 400-person team withdrawn from Iraq, known as the Joint Captured Materiel Exploitation Group, was primarily composed of technical experts and was headed by an Australian brigadier, Defense Department officials said. Its work *******d searching weapons depots and other sites for missile launchers that might have been used with illicit weapons, the officials said, and it was withdrawn "because its work was essentially done." The New York Times

01-08-2004, 11:09 PM
beautiful loser kind of already posted this