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Powell denies intelligence failure in Iraq but the evidence doesn't hold up

By Jason Leopold - posted Friday, 13 June 2003

The evidence - or lack thereof - speaks for itself. In the months leading up to the war in Iraq, the Bush administration produced hundreds of pages of intelligence for members of Congress and for the United Nations that showed how Iraq's President Saddam Hussein possessed tons of chemical and biological weapons and was actively pursuing a nuclear-weapons program.

The intelligence information, gathered by the CIA and the Defence Intelligence Agency (a Department of Defence agency that gathers foreign military intelligence for the Pentagon) was used by the Bush administration to convince the public that Iraq posed a threat to the world.

But the information in those reports, much of which has been declassified and is now available online, hasn't been vindicated as U.S. military forces comb Iraq for weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, it turns out that the bulk of the intelligence contained in the reports was just plain wrong, suggesting that either the intelligence was doctored to make a case for war or, even worse, that a massive intelligence failure is evident inside the CIA and other U.S. government agencies.


The Bush administration has come under fire from Republicans and Democrats alike over the past two weeks for failing to find any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and for possibly manipulating intelligence reports to back the war. Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice appeared on news programs on Sunday and vehemently denied these claims, saying that the media has turned the issue of the absence of WMD into a scandal and that the public is not concerned.

Last week U.S. News and World Report disclosed the existence of a DIA report that said no reliable evidence of Iraq's WMD program could be found, but the agency said it believed that Iraq had some chemical weapons.

"There can be no question there were weapons in Iraq before the war," Powell said. "They have had weapons throughout their history. They have used chemical weapons. They have admitted that they had biological weapons. And they never accounted for all they had or what they might have done with them."

"I don't think that the public is as upset or concerned about all this as the media, which has had a feeding frenzy for the last week," Powell said Sunday in an interview with Fox News.

That's not entirely accurate. Depending on how the question is asked, some people believe the Bush administration misled the public by using exaggerated evidence of WMD in making a case for war, while other polls conducted by outlets such as Fox News say a majority of people still believe the war was justified even if WMD are never found.

Still, despite the denials by Rice and Powell, both of whom said they believe the intelligence information to be accurate, most if not all the intelligence information publicly available has turned out to be false. And in its rush to war, it has become clear that the Bush administration overstated the urgency of the so-called Iraq threat.


For example, in a report produced by the CIA in October 2002, the agency said that Iraq had tried to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes "capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a couple of weapons per year". A copy of the CIA report can be found here.

President Bush seized upon this intelligence last year as evidence that Iraq was pursuing a nuclear-weapons program and urged the U.N. to back the US in disarming Iraq by force if the country failed to do so voluntarily.

But the aluminum tubes Iraq was trying to obtain were to build rockets rather than for centrifuges to enrich uranium, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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About the Author

Jason Leopold is the author of the National Bestseller, News Junkie, a memoir. Visit for a preview. Mr. Leopold is also a two-time winner of the Project Censored award, most recently, in 2007, for an investigative story related to Halliburton's work in Iran.

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