Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Former Iraqi officials are reluctant to provide information about Saddam Hussein’s arms programs because they fear retribution from terrorists loyal to the former regime, the CIA’s top weapons inspector told Congress yesterday.

Charles Duelfer, the CIA representative to the Iraq Survey Group, told a Senate panel about new information on Baghdad’s hidden chemical, biological and nuclear arms and equipment, including new information on civilian factories able to produce such weapons quickly.

However, no stockpiles of weapons have been uncovered so far, he said in prepared testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The CIA released the testimony, which he gave the panel in a closed hearing.

“While [the Iraq Survey Group] has met with hundreds of scientists, we have yet to identify the most critical people in any programmatic effort,” Mr. Duelfer said. “Many people have yet to be found or questioned, and many of those we have found are not giving us complete answers.”

Mr. Duelfer said he has found an “extreme reluctance of Iraqi managers, scientists and engineers to speak freely.”

“Many perceive a grave risk in speaking with us. On one hand, there is a fear of prosecution or arrest,” he said. “On the other, there is a fear former regime supporters will exact retribution. This is, in part, why we do not yet fully understand the central issue of regime intentions.”

Other U.S. officials said remnants of the Saddam regime have launched a campaign against its weapons officials.

The most recent incident occurred in February when Majid Husayn Ali, an Iraqi nuclear scientist and professor at Baghdad University’s College of Science, was found dead in Baghdad. He had been shot in the back.

The shooting was the ninth attack in four months against Iraqi scientists. Earlier, an Iraqi aeronautical scientist, Muhyi Husayn, was killed.

The attacks have caused a “brain drain” as at least 50 Iraqi scientists and technicians have fled the country in fear of assassination.

Investigators are exploring millions of pages of documents recovered since U.S. forces took Baghdad on April 9, Mr. Duelfer said.

“The collected documents are often mixed up in such a way as to make research in an organized manner extremely difficult,” Mr. Duelfer said.

Mr. Duelfer took over as the chief CIA representative for the survey group in February, after the December departure of David Kay, who told Congress that he concluded after nearly eight months that large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons did not exist.

Mr. Kay criticized U.S. intelligence agencies for providing faulty data on the Iraqi arms.

CIA Director George J. Tenet then said in a speech that more time was needed to search for the hidden arms and that Mr. Kay was wrong to say the search was nearly complete.

Mr. Duelfer said he has shifted the focus of investigation in Iraq.

“We must determine what Saddam ordered, what his ministers ordered, and how the plans fit together,” Mr. Duelfer said.

Hundreds of sites have been searched so far, and Mr. Duelfer said “we regularly receive reports, some quite intriguing and credible, about concealed caches” of arms.

From 1999 to 2003, kickbacks from illicit oil sales had provided Saddam with about $4 billion that a special military procurement office and the Iraqi intelligence service used to buy arms abroad, Mr. Duelfer said.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide