See also: CIA Intelligence refutes Bush's war rhetoric

Bush twists facts to fit, analysts say

By Julian Borger in Washington (Sydney Morning Herald, October 10 2002)

President George Bush's case against Saddam Hussein, outlined in his televised address on Monday, relied on a slanted and sometimes entirely false reading of the available United States intelligence, government officials and analysts say.

CIA, FBI and Energy Department officials are being put under intense pressure to produce reports that back the Administration's line, sources reveal. In response, some are complying, some are resisting and some are choosing to remain silent.

"Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements and there's a lot of unhappiness about it in intelligence, especially among analysts at the CIA," Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA's former head of counter-intelligence, said.

In Washington, the CIA director, George Tenet, seemed to contradict Mr Bush in his reading of the Iraqi leader's probable reaction to an imminent US-led attack. He said it might provoke him to help Islamic extremists in attacking the US with weapons of mass destruction.

Saddam might see it as "his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him", Mr Tenet wrote in a letter on Tuesday.

In his address, the President reassured Americans that military action was not "imminent or unavoidable", but he made the most detailed case to date for the use of force, should it become necessary.

But some of the key allegations against the Iraqi regime were not supported by available intelligence. Mr Bush repeated a claim already made by senior members of his administration that Iraq has tried to import hardened aluminium tubes "for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons".

But US Government experts on nuclear weapons and centrifuges have suggested that they were more likely to be used for making conventional weapons.

David Albright, who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank, said: "There's a catfight going on about this right now. On one side you have most of the experts on gas centrifuges. On the other you have one guy sitting in the CIA."

Mr Albright said sceptics at the Energy Department's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California had been ordered to keep their doubts to themselves. He quoted a colleague at the laboratory as saying: "The Administration can say what it wants and we are expected to remain silent."

There is also scepticism among US intelligence experts about the President's claim that "Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases".

Bob Baer, a former CIA agent who tracked al-Qaeda's rise, said that there were contacts between Osama bin Laden and the Iraqi government in Sudan in the early 1990s and in 1998: "But there is no evidence that a strategic partnership came out of it. I'm unaware of any evidence of Saddam pursuing terrorism against the US."

A source familiar with the September 11 investigation said: "The FBI has been pounded on to make this link."

The Guardian, Associated Press

home vicpeace.org