The White House declassified portions of an intelligence report from last October to demonstrate that President George W. Bush had ample reason to believe Iraq was reconstituting a nuclear weapons program.
But the material also reflects divisions and uncertainties among intelligence agencies as to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's activities.
The State Department, for instance, expressed deep skepticism over claims that Saddam was shopping for uranium ore in Africa to use in making atomic bombs -- an allegation that wound up in Bush's Jan. 28 State of the Union address but which administration officials have since repudiated.
"Claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are ... highly dubious," said a State Department addendum included among the declassified material.
The administration released the documents -- a sanitized version of the top-secret National Intelligence Estimate prepared for the president -- on Friday as it sought to shield Bush from rising criticism that he misled the public in making his case for war with Iraq.
Administration aides suggested that the eight pages of excerpts, out of 90 in the document, demonstrate the notion that Saddam was trying to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program permeated the US intelligence community -- and was not just based on a suspect British report that relied in part on forged documents.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the documents show "the clear and compelling case we had for confronting the threat that Saddam posed."
McClellan and other administration officials emphasized the report's assertion of "compelling evidence" that Iraq was seeking to rebuild its nuclear-weapons program.
But Daryl Kimball, executive director of the anti-nuclear Arms Control Association, suggested the release of the declassified documents showed the exact opposite.
"It further undermines the White House case that the Iraqi nuclear program was active and that it posed an immediate threat," he said.
Kimball said the State Department's reservations were particularly damaging to the administration's case. "Those are fighting words," he said.
In the declassified documents, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research concluded: "The activities we have detected do not ... add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing ... an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons."
In his State of the Union address, Bush asserted, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Secretary of State Colin Powell had voiced skepticism about such allegations. For that reason, he told reporters recently, he did not include the material in his lengthy presentation to the UN Security Council in early February.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair stood by the Africa claim during a visit to Washington on Thursday, although US officials, including CIA Director George Tenet, have recently challenged it.
Tenet has said he should have insisted the offending sentence be removed from a draft of Bush's speech sent to his agency for review.
Bush has only said that the speech was cleared by intelligence agencies. White House officials vowed to do a better job to prevent questionable material from winding up in his speeches.
The overall findings of last October's intelligence "estimate" served as the foundation for many of the general assertions made by Bush and other administration officials in the run-up to the war: that Saddam was making chemical and biological weapons, was rebuilding his nuclear-weapons program and had illegal long-range missiles that could reach as far as Israel.
None of those assertions has been validated by postwar findings in Iraq.
An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft has acquired imagery data covering all of Mars, including visuals of its south pole, after circling the planet more than 1,300 times since early last year, state media reported yesterday. The Tianwen-1 successfully reached the Red Planet in February last year on the country’s inaugural mission there. A robotic rover has since been deployed on the surface as an orbiter surveyed the planet from space. Among the images taken from space were China’s first photographs of the Martian south pole, where almost all of the planet’s water resources are locked. In 2018, an orbiting probe operated by the European
QUARANTINE SHORTENED: A new protocol detailing risk levels and local policy responses would be ‘more scientific and accurate,’ a health agency spokesman said China’s revised COVID-19 guidelines, which cut a quarantine requirement in half for inbound travelers, also create a standardized policy for mass testing and lockdowns when cases of the disease flare, showing that the country still has a zero-tolerance approach to the virus. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) solidified the position during a trip to Wuhan, where the pathogen first emerged in 2019, saying that China is capable of achieving a “final victory” over the virus. The “zero COVID-19” policy is the most effective and economic approach for the country, Xi said during the trip on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported. The first
A former South Korean Navy SEAL turned YouTuber who risked jail time to leave Seoul and fight for Ukraine said it would have been a “crime” not to use his skills to help. Ken Rhee, a former special warfare officer, signed up at the Ukrainian embassy in Seoul the moment Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked for global volunteers and was fighting on the front lines near Kyiv by early March. To get there, he had to break South Korean law — Seoul banned its citizens from traveling to Ukraine, and Rhee, who was injured in a fall while leading a special operations
A flight test of a hypersonic missile system in Hawaii on Wednesday ended in failure due to a problem that occurred after ignition, the US Department of Defense said, delivering a fresh blow to a program that has experienced stumbles. It did not provide details of what took place in the test, but said in an e-mailed statement that “the department remains confident that it is on track to field offensive and defensive hypersonic capabilities on target dates beginning in the early 2020s.” “An anomaly occurred following ignition of the test asset,” Pentagon spokesman US Navy Lieutenant Commander Tim Gorman said in