First Published: 2003-05-31

 
How US prepared report on Iraq's WMD?
 

Powell was under persistent pressure from Pentagon, White House to use shaky intelligence on Iraq.

 

Middle East Online

Questionable intelligence

WASHINGTON & LONDON - US Secretary of State Colin Powell was under persistent pressure from the Pentagon and White House to include questionable intelligence in his report on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction he delivered at the United Nations last February, a US weekly reported Friday.

US News and World Report magazine said the first draft of the speech was prepared for Powell by Vice President Richard Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in late January.

According to the report, the draft contained such questionable material that Powell lost his temper, throwing several pages in the air and declaring, "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit."

Cheney's aides wanted Powell to include in his presentation information that Iraq has purchased computer software that would allow it to plan an attack on the United States, an allegation that was not supported by the CIA, US News reported.

The White House also pressed Powell to include charges that the suspected leader of the September 11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer prior to the attacks, despite a refusal by US and European intelligence agencies to confirm the meeting, the magazine said.

The pressure forced Powell to appoint his own review team that met several times with Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to prepare the speech, in which the secretary of state accused Iraq of hiding tonnes of biological and chemical weapons.

US News also said that the Defense Intelligence Agency had issued a classified assessment of Iraq's chemical weapons program last September, arguing that "there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons."

However, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress shortly after that that the Iraqi "regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, sarin, cyclosarin, and mustard gas," according to the report.

Powell, Straw voiced doubt over Iraq WMD evidence

The Guardian said Saturday in a report that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Powell expressed doubts in private over public claims they were making about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to war, which was denied by the Foreign Office.

The left-wing British daily said the two men voiced concerns about intelligence on Iraqi weapons during a private meeting in New York.

The encounter came shortly before a key UN Security Council meeting on February 5, when Powell presented what he claimed was clear evidence that Iraq was concealing banned weapons, the Guardian said.

Its story was based on information from an unnamed diplomatic source, who the paper said had read a transcript of the conversation between Straw and Powell.

The transcript recorded Straw voicing concern that assertions being made by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush about Saddam Hussein's arsenals could not be proved.

The document quoted Powell as allegedly saying he was "apprehensive" about intelligence assessments containing circumstantial evidence, and telling Straw he hoped the facts, when they came out, would not "explode in their faces".

The Guardian, which opposed the US-led war against Iraq, said that the transcript appeared to have been leaked by diplomats who were supportive of the use of force against Baghdad at the time, but now feel they were lied to about its justification.

But the Foreign Office dismissed the Guardian report as "simply untrue" and insisted that "no such meeting took place" between Powell and Straw.

A spokeswoman said: "The Foreign Secretary has always been clear of the strength of the evidence against Iraq in respect of weapons of mass destruction - much of it in UN sources - and has often referred to this."

The British media has in recent days insisted on explanations over how the prime minister's office allegedly exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

In Warsaw on Friday, Blair dismissed as "completely absurd" the idea that intelligence agencies fabricated evidence that Iraq had such weapons in order to justify war.

The US and its allies are to launch a fresh effort next week to find weapons of mass destruction, sending in a 1,300-member team to Iraq to take up a hunt that has turned up no banned weapons so far.

 

US-led strikes target IS jihadists in Syria

Huthi rebels hold key Sanaa offices after hard-won peace deal

Libya parliament approves Thani’s cabinet lineup

Arab Bank found liable for backing terrorism

Qatar ‘will not host’ 2022 World Cup: Blame it on temperatures!

Kuwaiti acquits 67 stateless protesters

French PM: 'No discussion' with Algeria hostage-takers

World leaders confront crises on many fronts at UN

Kurds slow jihadist advance on key border town in northern Syria

Mossad launches new website to recruit potential spooks

Saudi second Crown Prince: We must protect our youth from ‘forces of darkness’

Australia to join US-led air campaign in Iraq

Freed to be rearrested: Palestinian prisoners plan hunger strike

Lebanon describes abuse of Syria detainees as ‘isolated incident’

Abadi opposes foreign ground intervention in Iraq

Algeria army eliminates ‘terrorist chief’ in Kabylie region

Better safe than sorry: EU boosts security after jihadist threat

Iran conducts arrests over ‘SMS Khomeini insults’

Rouhani: Iran cornerstone of stability in Mideast

4 Saudis sentenced to death in 'bloodiest terror' cell

Australia’s Howard 'embarrassed' US intel on Iraq WMD unfounded

IS urges Muslims to kill citizens from US-led coalition

Over 130,000 Syrian Kurds flee to Turkey

South Sudan peace talks resume in Ethiopia

Iraq loses communication with soldiers near Fallujah

Palestinians intensive diplomatic campaign on three fronts

Rival Yemen groups sign UN-brokered deal

US discusses IS militant threat with arch-foe Iran

Turkey's PKK urges fellow Kurds to fight IS jihadists in Syria

UN warns over 'forcible transfer' of Palestinian Bedouin

Syria denies use of chlorine chemicals

Court verdict paves way for release of activist Mahienour el-Massry

IS fighters lay siege to Syria Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab

Huthi seditious plans come out in open: Capture of government HQ in Sanaa

Israel steps up cyber-defense with new national body

Egypt military aircraft crashes after technical failure

Erdogan confesses: Turkey held ‘diplomatic negotiations’ with Islamic State

Pope denounces Islamic State: Religion cannot be used to justify violence!

Solution according to Huthis: Deal in Saada and battles in Sanaa

Bloody attack strikes outside Egypt Foreign Ministry in Cairo

Mediators denounce ‘senseless fighting’ in South Sudan

Tunisia jihadist group offers backing to Islamic State

US Secretary of State sees role for Iran in war against Islamic State

Kurds cross from Turkey to fight Islamic State in Syria

Yemen suspends flights for second day as truce talks collapse