The CIA had "less than a handful" of sources in prewar Iraq and could not get access to suspected weapons programs, the departing head of the agency's spy service said on Monday. \n"As some critics have claimed, during the pre-war period, we did not have many Iraq sources. We certainly did not have enough," James Pavitt, CIA deputy director for operations, said in a speech to the Foreign Policy Association. \n"Until we put people on the ground in northern Iraq, we had less than a handful," said Pavitt, who has announced plans to retire in August. \nHe said the CIA was unable to gain access to the "heart of Saddam's weapons programs." But in the months before the war the agency got closer to the political and military inner circles and collected intelligence the US military found vital when it entered Iraq, he said. \nThe CIA's presence in Iraq is now the largest anywhere since the Vietnam War, Pavitt said. \nThe Bush administration and US intelligence agencies have been criticized for prewar allegations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Although CIA Director George Tenet, who will resign next month, had assured US President George W. Bush there was a convincing case, no stockpiles of unconventional weapons have been found. \nThe US had faced difficulties recruiting Iraqi spies before the war because potential sources were fearful of retribution from former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and wary of the US commitment to overthrow him, Pavitt said. \n"You cannot recruit spies in a vacuum," he said. "The decade before was a time when on the one hand we were saying quietly we needed to overthrow Saddam, on the other hand we weren't saying that with any great vigor publicly." \nHe said the CIA had nothing to do with misleading information given to the Pentagon by Iraqi defectors and refugees linked to exile groups intent on overthrowing Saddam. "Those controversial spies, if you will, were not my spies." \nThe threat from al Qaeda remains nearly three years after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, he said. \n"Al Qaeda has unambiguous plans to hit the homeland again, and New York City, I am certain, remains a prime target," he said. \nUS efforts against al Qaeda have inflicted "irrevocable damage" on parts of the network, but it has "poisoned an international movement" fueling attacks around the world, Pavitt said. "We've got to realize that the war we are in is one which in my mind has no end in sight." \nPavitt described as unwarranted and ill-informed some of the criticisms leveled at the CIA, and denied charges the agency has a risk-averse culture. \nHe cited successes such as finding Saddam's sons, who were then killed by US forces. He credited a CIA officer in Iraq "who dealt with a nervous, jumpy intelligence volunteer who promised, and delivered, the location of Uday and Qusay Hussein." \nThe CIA's clandestine service has grown 30 percent in the last five years and another 30 percent increase is planned in the next five years, he said. \nNow would be the wrong time for radical reorganization of the intelligence community, amid a politically-charged atmosphere and great terrorist threat, Pavitt said. \nSome critics have said Pavitt's and Tenet's pending departures create "the `Perfect Storm'" a major intelligence restructuring, Pavitt said. "Let me remind you that in the book and the movie The Perfect Storm, the ship sank and the crew drowned."
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and