posted 07-28-2003 05:12 PM
© 2003 WorldNetDaily.com
WASHINGTON – While President Bush's critics continue to claim he hyped the Iraqi nuclear threat in his State of the Union Address, a recently declassified Central Intelligence Agency assessment obtained by Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin shows the CIA took very seriously Saddam Hussein's efforts to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program.
The report, "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs," dated October 2002, concluded Baghdad would "probably have a nuclear weapons during this decade."
"Baghdad hides large portions of Iraq's WMD efforts," the CIA report said. "Revelations after the Gulf war starkly demonstrate the extensive efforts undertaken by Iraq to deny information. Since inspections ended in 1998, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort, energized its missile program, and invested more heavily in biological weapons; most analysts assess Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program."
The CIA was also reporting the following four months before President Bush's State of the Union Address:
Although Saddam probably does not yet have nuclear weapons or sufficient material to make any, he remains intent on acquiring them. How quickly Iraq will obtain its first nuclear weapon depends on when it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material.
If Baghdad acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within a year.
Without such material from abroad, Iraq probably would not be able to make a weapon until the last half of the decade.
Iraq's aggressive attempts to obtain proscribed high-strength aluminum tubes are of significant concern. All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons and that these tubes could be used in a centrifuge enrichment program. Most intelligence specialists assess this to be the intended use, but some believe that these tubes are probably intended for conventional weapons programs.
Based on tubes of the size Iraq is trying to acquire, a few tens of thousands of centrifuges would be capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a couple of weapons per year.
Bush's critics, some of whom have even hinted at impeachment over what they see as deceptiveness in the State of the Union, zero in on 16 words in the Jan. 28 speech: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
British intelligence, as well as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, have stood behind its report on efforts by Iraq to secure uranium from the nation of Niger. The CIA has said it could not independently verify the intelligence.
The controversy started July 6, when an envoy sent by the CIA to Africa last year to investigate the uranium claim contended that the Bush administration ignored – and possibly manipulated – his findings. In a New York Times op-ed article, Joseph Wilson, former U.S. ambassador to Gabon, said it was highly doubtful that any transaction took place.
The next day, the White House acknowledged that Bush should not have made the claim because of concerns about the intelligence behind it. Some documents allegedly showing an Iraq-Niger uranium connection turned out to be forgeries.
Democrats in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail demanded an investigation into whether Bush exaggerated intelligence.
But the CIA report dating back to October 2002 would seem to show clearly that U.S. intelligence was indeed concerned about Iraq's efforts to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. While not specifically addressing the Niger issue, the CIA was warning that if Hussein could secure uranium, he could develop a nuclear weapon within a year.