- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2003

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency yesterday debunked the notion that a classified intelligence report had said the United States had no reliable evidence before hostilities that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

The 2002 DIA report, leaked to the press this week, said intelligence officials could not pin down the exact location of Saddam Hussein’s caches of chemical and biological weapons. However, Adm. Lowell Jacoby, the director of the DIA, said yesterday that didn’t mean Iraq’s banned weapons program was a myth.

“We did not have doubts about the existence of the program,” Adm. Jacoby said upon emerging from a classified intelligence briefing before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday.

Adm. Jacoby said earlier press reports suggesting the United States had no reliable evidence of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons program were wrong and based on a “single sentence” in a DIA report that “was not intended to … summarize the program.”

At the time the report was written, September 2002, the Bush administration was telling Congress that war in Iraq was necessary to force Saddam to give up his weapons of mass destruction and the ability to make more.

Since the end of major military operations in Iraq in April, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. But several mobile labs with the capacity to produce deadly chemical agents have been located by coalition forces. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction has led many Democrats on Capitol Hill to charge that the Bush administration ignored intelligence reports that suggested a lack of weapons, or manipulated vague reports of the presence of chemical agents, to justify the war.

There was no need to manipulate the reports, Adm. Jacoby said, because “clearly, there’s a whole body of evidence” since the United Nations began inspecting Iraq at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war “that says they, in fact, did have a weapons of mass destruction program.”

The DIA report leaked to the press “is not in any way intended to portray the fact that we had doubts that such a program existed, that such a program was active, or such a program was part of the Iraqi [weapons of mass destruction] infrastructure,” Adm. Jacoby said.

President Bush said Thursday in a speech before U.S. troops at Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar that “we’ll reveal the truth” about Saddam’s unconventional weapons program.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barraso emerged from an Oval Office visit yesterday to say that Mr. Bush “told me he has the full confidence in the intelligence reports he received about the possessions of weapons of mass destruction by the former Iraqi authorities.”

Mr. Durao Barraso added: “I trust our allies,” and that “moral grounds” apart from any Iraqi weapons justified the war.

“From my point of view, the most important thing now is the fact that that regime is over,” Mr. Durao Barraso said. “It’s no longer a threat to anybody in the world. I think we don’t need any kind of justification like [weapons of mass destruction] to justify the war. The mass graves that were discovered in Iraq after the allied intervention are in itself a justification for the war.”

Selected details of the classified DIA report were first reported by Bloomberg News. A summary from the report said Iraq “probably” had stockpiles of banned chemicals. Bloomberg reported that the report stood in contrast to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s testimony to Congress on Sept. 19 that Iraq had “amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, sarin and mustard gas.”

Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the DIA report was taken out of context and that “further down in the text” it explained that Iraq indeed possessed stockpiles of chemical weapons.

Mr. Warner said his numerous classified briefings have left him confident that the intelligence gathered before the war was accurate, despite the doubts of others.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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