Saturday, February 07, 2004

Pincus's Page

It really is kind of a joke. It appears that the Washington Post has just slotted everything Pincus writes for page A17.

On Aug. 26, 2002, Cheney said: "Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon." The estimate, several weeks later, would say it would take as many as five years, unless Baghdad immediately obtained weapons-grade materials.

In the same speech, Cheney raised the specter that Hussein would give chemical or biological weapons to terrorists, a prospect invoked often in the weeks to come. "Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network, or a murderous dictator, or the two working together, constitute as grave a threat as can be imagined," Cheney said.

It would be more than a month later that a declassified portion of the NIE would show that U.S. intelligence analysts had forecast that Hussein would give such weapons to terrorists only if Iraq were invaded and he faced annihilation.

"The probability of him initiating an attack . . . in the foreseeable future . . . I think would be low," a senior CIA official told the Senate intelligence committee during a classified briefing on the estimate on Oct. 2, 2002. The CIA released a partial transcript five days later after committee Democrats complained that a published "white paper" on Iraq's weapons had not given the public a fair reading of what the classified NIE contained.

On Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney said of Hussein on NBC's "Meet the Press": "We do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon." Cheney was referring to the aluminum tubes that some analysts believed could be used for a centrifuge to help make nuclear materials; others believed they were for an antiaircraft rocket.

Such absolute certainty, however, did not appear in the estimate. Tenet said Thursday that the controversy has yet to be cleared up.

On Sept. 19, 2002, Rumsfeld, speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: "No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people than the regime of Saddam Hussein and Iraq." The October estimate contained no similar language.

Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 18, 2002, Rumsfeld described an immediate threat from biological weapons. Hussein, he said, could deploy "sleeper cells armed with biological weapons to attack us from within -- and then deny any knowledge or connection to the attacks."