CIA Sticks To Its Story

The CIA is out with a "new" report on weapons of mass destruction that clings to an “old” view on Iraq's arms programs.

The unclassified version of the twice-yearly report on weapons activities by such countries as Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Syria—in this instance covering June through December 2003-forms the basis Wednesday for a Reuters report featured in the Daily News and an article in The New York Times.

Both pieces focus on the big news: The allegation that Iran is seeking "indigenous programs to produce nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons," and that Pakistan helped Tehran to pursue nukes.

But just as interesting is the tidbit about Iraq. For years, the CIA's WMD reports laid out lengthy charges against Saddam Hussein's alleged illegal stockpiles and programs. Then the U.S.-led war exposed the fact that there were none. The CIA report, however, does not note this. Instead it says, "We are not yet at the point where we can draw comprehensive or final conclusions about the extent of Iraq's prewar WMD program."

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That's the same line of thinking in the CIA report released last November (covering January through June of that year): "A large-scale effort is currently underway to find the answers to the many outstanding questions about Iraq's WMD and delivery systems."

Readers might recall that a lot has happened since last November: Former chief weapons hunter David Kay said we were "almost all wrong" about Iraq's weapons, and current chief weapons hunter Charles Duelfer's final report found that while Saddam may have intended to resume producing WMD, he had no stockpiles, active programs or formal plans to do so.

Is it possible that amid the internal turmoil at the CIA, analysts forgot the Kay and Duelfer findings? That seems unlikely. A CIA spokeswoman said the reason the latest report was published only this week is because some of the people reviewing it are the same folks who work on Iraq.

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