- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

U.S. intelligence agencies need to explain why their research indicated that Iraq possessed banned weapons before the American-led invasion, says the outgoing top U.S. inspector, who now thinks Saddam Hussein had no such arms.

“I don’t think they exist,” David Kay said yesterday. “The fact that we found so far the weapons do not exist, we’ve got to deal with that difference and understand why.”

Mr. Kay’s remarks on National Public Radio reignited criticism from Democrats, who ignored his cautions that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was “not a political issue.”

“It’s an issue of the capabilities of one’s intelligence service to collect valid, truthful information,” Mr. Kay said.

Asked whether President Bush owed the nation an explanation for the gap between his warnings on banned weapons in Iraq and Mr. Kay’s findings, the inspector said: “I actually think the intelligence community owes the president, rather than the president owing the American people.”

The CIA would not comment yesterday on the remarks, although one intelligence official pointed out that Mr. Kay himself had predicted last year that his search would turn up banned weapons.

Mr. Kay said his predictions were not “coming back to haunt me in the sense that I am embarrassed. They are coming back to haunt me in the sense of ‘Why could we all be so wrong?’”

The White House stuck by its assertions that illicit weapons will be found in Iraq but had no additional response yesterday to Mr. Kay’s remarks.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said his belief that the Bush administration had exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq had been reinforced by Mr. Kay’s comments.

“It confirms what I have said for a long period of time, that we were misled — misled not only in the intelligence, but misled in the way that the president took us to war,” Mr. Kerry, a White House contender, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think there’s been an enormous amount of exaggeration, stretching, deception.”

Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he was surprised that Mr. Kay “did not find some semblance” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Mr. Roberts said a report on Iraq intelligence, to be delivered to his panel Wednesday, should help clarify the CIA’s prewar performance.

“It appears now that that intelligence, there’s a lot of questions about it,” Mr. Roberts said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

Mr. Kay returned permanently from Iraq last month, having found no biological, nuclear or chemical weapons nor missiles with longer range than the country was allowed under international restrictions.

But yesterday, Mr. Kay reiterated his conclusion that Saddam had “a large number of [weapons of mass destruction] program-related activities.” Iraq’s leaders had intended to continue those activities, Mr. Kay added.

“There were scientists and engineers working on developing weapons or weapons concepts that they had not moved into actual production,” Mr. Kay said. “But in some areas, for example, producing mustard gas, they knew all the answers, they had done it in the past, and it was a relatively simple thing to go from where they were to starting to produce it.”

The Iraqis had not decided to begin producing such weapons at the time of the invasion, he concluded.

And, he said, there is ample evidence that Iraq had been sending a steady stream of goods to Syria, but it is difficult to determine whether the cargoes included weapons, in part because Syria has refused to cooperate in this part of the investigation.

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