- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003

From combined dispatches

Iraqi officials who participated in the deception program to hide Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction are now telling U.S. officials how they did it, the CIA’s special adviser for the weapons search said yesterday.

Contradicting news media reports that Iraqi scientists were not talking to U.S. officials, David Kay said “solid progress” was being made in the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that the scientists involved in the weapons programs are “collaborating and cooperating.”

Mr. Kay, a former chief weapons inspector for the United Nations, said new evidence has been uncovered about how the Iraqis misled U.N. inspectors.

“The active deception program is truly amazing once you get inside it,” he said. “We have people who participated in deceiving U.N. inspectors now telling us how they did it.”

Iraqi scientists and freshly unearthed documents have led the WMD hunting team to new, previously unknown sites in Iraq, Mr. Kay said.

“We have Iraqi scientists who were involved in these programs who are assisting us in taking them apart. They are collaborating and cooperating,” he said.

Mr. Kay suggested that U.S. and coalition personnel were close to a breakthrough in the search for the weapons stockpiles, adding that searchers were using documents from Saddam’s regime.

“The American people should not be surprised by surprises,” Mr. Kay said, echoing a remark made moments earlier by Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Mr. Kay spoke with reporters after he and Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton, head of the Pentagon search team, gave a closed-door briefing to the Senate Armed Services Committee. He and Gen. Dayton were to meet later yesterday with the intelligence panel, also in a closed session.

So far the Bush administration has failed to uncover any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Questions have been raised about the quality of the pre-war intelligence and whether it was manipulated to help make the case for war.

The questions have grown with the administration’s acknowledgment that a reference in President Bush’s State of the Union speech on Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa was based on discredited intelligence.

Mr. Kay, Mr. Roberts and Armed Services Chairman Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, all urged patience in the search.

“We are determined to take this apart and every day I must say we are surprised by new advances that we are making,” Mr. Kay said.

However, he said the search would take some time.

“This was a program over 25 years, involving billions of dollars, tens of thousands of people,” which was kept under wraps “by security and deception,” he added.

Still, the process of locating the weapons is likely to gain momentum, Mr. Kay said, now that an ever-greater number of Iraqis are cooperating with U.S. troops.

“We are gaining the active cooperation of Iraqis who were involved in those programs,” he said.

Mr. Kay said details about the search won’t be released until three criteria are met: “multiple Iraqis” are willing to talk about the weapons program, several documents are uncovered about the weapons and physical evidence of the program is obtained.

“We do not want to go forward with partial information that we have to retract afterward,” he said. “We’re building a solid case that will stand, and we welcome international scrutiny of that case after we have the evidence assembled.”

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