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Senate probes CIA reports on Iraq arms
Yahoo News/Reuters
By David Morgan
September 15, 2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate panel has begun an inquiry to determine what a top official in Saddam Hussein's government told the CIA about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in late 2002 as the Bush administration made its case for war.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said in a September 8 report that it launched the investigation after the CIA's former chief of European clandestine operations appeared on the CBS' "60 Minutes" news magazine in April. The official, Tyler Drumheller, told CBS that the Iraqi government source had said Iraq had no active unconventional weapons program.

Drumheller's disclosure contradicted spy agency documents quoting the same Iraqi source as saying Saddam did have such programs, according to an addendum to the Senate report written by three Republican senators including chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas.

"We have differing interpretations, and I think mine's right," Drumheller, who has already testified on the matter before the committee, told Reuters on Friday. Drumheller is preparing to publish a book about his 26-year career that will include material on Iraq and the U.S. war on terrorism.

The Iraqi official, identified by CBS as former Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, also told the CIA that Iraq considered al Qaeda a longtime enemy and had "no past, current or anticipated future contact" with Osama bin Laden, the senators said.

The CIA did not pass that along to policymakers, the senators said. Nor was it disseminated to intelligence analysts. That was because CIA officials concluded the Iraqi official's comments on al Qaeda were nothing new, the senators said.

The CIA gained access to the source in Saddam's inner circle in September 2002, as President George W. Bush warned Americans that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction posed an imminent threat and that Saddam had ties to the al Qaeda network responsible for the September 11 attacks.

The United States invaded Iraq six months later. But U.S. troops have found no such weapons there. The Senate report, echoing earlier findings by the September 11 commission, also concludes that Saddam Hussein had no relationship with al Qaeda.

Drumheller's televised comments lent support to allegations that the administration focused on intelligence which backed its case for war with Iraq while ignoring contradictory reports.

But in the Senate report, which compares prewar Iraq intelligence with postwar findings, the Republican senators said a CIA operations cable and an intelligence report to high-level policymakers both contradict Drumheller.

"The committee has not completed its inquiry," Roberts said in an additional views addendum co-authored with Sen. Orrin Hatch (news, bio, voting record) of Utah and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (news, bio, voting record) of Georgia. All three are staunch White House allies.

"All of the information about this case so far indicates that the information from this source was that Iraq did have WMD programs," they wrote.

Drumheller said Saddam had no fissile material for bomb-making and that chemical munitions posed little danger because they had been dispersed in small numbers to political leaders across the country.

"There was no prospect of an immediate attack from any kind of weapon like this," he said.

The Iraqi official had told the CIA the only weapons program not fully active was a biological weapons program he described as amateur, the senators said in the report.

Original Text