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US built Iraq case on old data: CIA report

July 04, 2003 17:11 IST

The United States lacked new, hard information about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction after United Nations inspectors left Iraq in 1998, and so had to rely on data from the early and mid-1990s in the run-up to the war, according to preliminary findings of a Central Intelligence Agency internal review panel.

Although the post-1998 evidence was largely circumstantial or 'inferential' because of the inspectors' absence and the lack of reliable agents inside Iraq, the panel said, the judgement that Saddam Hussein continued to have WMDs appears justified, according to a media report on Friday.

"It would have been very hard to conclude those programs were not continuing, based on the reports being gathered in recent years about Iraqi purchases and other activities before the war," said Richard J Kerr, a former CIA deputy director who heads the four-person review panel appointed in February by the agency's Director, George J Tenet.

The panel's mission, initially suggested by Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld, is to provide 'lessons learned' from the Iraq war by comparing the pre-war analyses and estimates to the intelligence gathered inside the country after the war.

Kerr said the pre-war intelligence reports given to the administration's policymakers from the CIA, the Pentagon and State Department contained caveats and disagreements on data underlying some judgements, such as whether Hussein's nuclear programme was being reconstituted. But 'on the whole, the analysts were pretty much on the mark', the Washington Post quoted him as saying.

Kerr, an analyst for most of his 32 years at the CIA, said his preliminary report is the first half of the review. President George W Bush justified the invasion of Iraq primarily on the argument that Hussein had WMDs that threatened the US.

On another controversial Iraq intelligence issue, the report indicated that although the Al Qaeda and Hussein had a common enemy in the US, and there were some ties among individuals in the two camps, 'it was not at all clear there was any coordination or joint activities', said one individual inside the CIA who is familiar with the report.

The source said 'there were people talking to each other' in Iraq and other countries, 'but that was how Saddam kept track of what was going on' in the Al Qaeda.

In promoting the war, Bush and his top aides said there were links between the Al Qaeda and Iraq. They cited contacts going back 10 years and a trip to Baghdad for medical attention by one terrorist leader who had ties to Osama bin Laden, the report said.

Press Trust of India

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