Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A Pentagon official who publicly disclosed information showing Russian involvement in moving Iraqi weapons out of that country has been dismissed.

John A. Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security and formerly an aide to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, was forced to leave his position Dec. 10 as the result of a “reorganization” that eliminated his job, defense officials said.

Mr. Shaw said he had been asked to resign for “exceeding his authority” in disclosing the information, a charge he called “specious.”

In October, Mr. Shaw told The Washington Times that he had received foreign intelligence data showing that Russian special forces units were involved in an effort to remove Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003.

In a letter to Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Shaw said that information about the covert Russian role in moving Iraqi arms to Syria, Lebanon and possibly Iran was discussed during a meeting that included retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, head of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; the head of Britain’s MI6 intelligence service; and the head of a foreign intelligence service that he did not name.

The Pentagon office was conducting “research focused on analyzing Russian documents to determine the pattern of acquisition and dispersal of weaponry in the pre-war period,” Mr. Shaw said in the Dec. 3 letter. A copy was obtained by The Washington Times.

The Defense Intelligence Agency has been fully briefed on the Russian covert arms removal, and Mr. Shaw expected additional information from foreign sources to produce more details, he wrote to Mr. Rumsfeld.

Reports of the Russian role in dispersing Iraqi arms made news during the final days of the presidential election campaign, at a time when the Bush administration was being criticized for failing to secure tons of Iraqi high explosives that could be used in developing nuclear arms.

Mr. Shaw went public to counter a political “October surprise” campaign designed to “crucify the president” over the missing explosives, he wrote to Mr. Rumsfeld.

“The Kerry media-driven October surprise attack on us and the president stopped within hours,” Mr. Shaw wrote. “If I had not had the openly hostile environment in [Pentagon public affairs], I would have moved the story differently. Getting the truth out instantly was more important than process.”

After Mr. Shaw’s disclosures, the Pentagon released spy satellite photographs of Iraqi weapons facilities that showed truck convoys at the plants, apparently in preparation to move materials. Further corroborating Mr. Shaw’s account, a Russian newspaper reported that two retired Russian generals had received awards from Saddam’s government 10 days before the coalition assault on Iraq began.

Mr. Shaw directed a Pentagon program called the Iraq Technology Transfer List that identified foreign weapons and technology discovered in Iraq after the March 2003 invasion.

In his December letter to Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Shaw complained that he had been targeted by “senior members” in the secretary’s office.

“I cannot in good conscience resign at this time,” Mr. Shaw stated. “I cannot submit my resignation to you until it is clear that this well-orchestrated campaign to obstruct justice and suppress the findings of my office has been properly addressed and stopped.”

Mr. Shaw singled out Mr. Rumsfeld’s chief of staff, Larry DiRita, and other officials for attempting to “suborn the office of the inspector general” after Mr. Shaw uncovered “a major [Coalition Provisional Authority] fraud and corruption case involving various [Department of Defense] figures.”

Mr. DiRita called Mr. Shaw’s charges “absurd and without any foundation.”

“He has been directed on several occasions to produce evidence of his wide-ranging and fantastic charges and provide it to the DoD inspector general,” Mr. DiRita said in an interview. “To my knowledge, he has not done so.”

Mr. DiRita declined to comment on specific accusations made by Mr. Shaw.

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