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[casi] Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence

Depiction of
        Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence
Message-ID: <>
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Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2003 09:08:36 PDT

A good, coherent summary.

-------------- forward ---------------

Date: Mon, 11 Aug 2003 20:14:00 -0400
Subject:  [iac-disc.] Depiction of Threat Outgrew
Supporting Evidence -- Washington Post

Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence

By Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 10, 2003; Page A01

His name was Joe, from the U.S. government. He carried
40 classified slides and a message from the Bush

An engineer-turned-CIA analyst, Joe had helped build the
U.S. government case that Iraq posed a nuclear threat.
He landed in Vienna on Jan. 22 and drove to the U.S.
diplomatic mission downtown. In a conference room 32
floors above the Danube River, he told United Nations
nuclear inspectors they were making a serious mistake.

At issue was Iraq's efforts to buy high-strength aluminum
tubes. The U.S. government said those tubes were for
centrifuges to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. But the
IAEA, the world's nuclear watchdog, had uncovered strong
evidence that Iraq was using them for conventional

Joe described the rocket story as a transparent Iraqi lie.
According to people familiar with his presentation, which
circulated before and afterward among government and
outside specialists, Joe said the specialized aluminum in
the tubes was "overspecified," "inappropriate" and
"excessively strong." No one, he told the inspectors,
would waste the costly alloy on a rocket.

In fact, there was just such a rocket. According to
knowledgeable U.S. and overseas sources, experts from
U.S. national laboratories reported in December to the
Energy Department and U.S. intelligence analysts that
Iraq was manufacturing copies of the Italian-made Medusa
81. Not only the Medusa's alloy, but also its dimensions,
to the fraction of a millimeter, matched the disputed
aluminum tubes.

A CIA spokesman asked that Joe's last name be withheld for
his safety, and said he would not be made available for an
interview. The spokesman said the tubes in question "are
not the same as the Medusa 81" but would not identify what
distinguishes them. In an interview, CIA Director George
J. Tenet said several different U.S. intelligence
agencies believed the tubes could be used to build gas
centrifuges for a uranium enrichment program.

The Vienna briefing was one among many private and public
forums in which the Bush administration portrayed a
menacing Iraqi nuclear threat, even as important features
of its evidence were being undermined. There were other
White House assertions about forbidden weapons programs,
including biological and chemical arms, for which there
was consensus among analysts. But the danger of a
nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein, more potent as an argument
for war, began with weaker evidence and grew weaker still
in the three months before war.

This article is based on interviews with analysts and
policymakers inside and outside the U.S. government, and
access to internal documents and technical evidence not
previously made public.

The new information indicates a pattern in which President
Bush, Vice President Cheney and their subordinates -- in
public and behind the scenes -- made allegations depicting
Iraq's nuclear weapons program as more active, more
certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they
had would support. On occasion administration advocates
withheld evidence that did not conform to their views.
The White House seldom corrected misstatements or
acknowledged loss of confidence in information upon which
it had previously relied:

. Bush and others often alleged that President Hussein
held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, but
did not disclose that the known work of the scientists was
largely benign. Iraq's three top gas centrifuge experts,
for example, ran a copper factory, an operation to extract
graphite from oil and a mechanical engineering design
center at Rashidiya.

. The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of October
2002 cited new construction at facilities once associated
with Iraq's nuclear program, but analysts had no reliable
information at the time about what was happening under the
roofs. By February, a month before the war, U.S.
government specialists on the ground in Iraq had seen for
themselves that there were no forbidden activities at the

. Gas centrifuge experts consulted by the U.S.
government said repeatedly for more than a year that the
aluminum tubes were not suitable or intended for uranium
enrichment. By December 2002, the experts said new
evidence had further undermined the government's
assertion. The Bush administration portrayed the
scientists as a minority and emphasized that the experts
did not describe the centrifuge theory as impossible.

. In the weeks and months following Joe's Vienna
briefing, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and others
continued to describe the use of such tubes for rockets as
an implausible hypothesis, even after U.S. analysts
collected and photographed in Iraq a virtually identical
tube marked with the logo of the Medusa's Italian
manufacturer and the words, in English, "81mm rocket."

. The escalation of nuclear rhetoric a year ago,
including the introduction of the term "mushroom cloud"
into the debate, coincided with the formation of a White
House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to
"educate the public" about the threat from Hussein, as a
participant put it.

Two senior policymakers, who supported the war, said in
unauthorized interviews that the administration greatly
overstated Iraq's near-term nuclear potential.

"I never cared about the 'imminent threat,' " said one of
the policymakers, with directly relevant responsibilities.
"The threat was there in [Hussein's] presence in office.
To me, just knowing what it takes to have a nuclear
weapons program, he needed a lot of equipment. You can
stare at the yellowcake [uranium ore] all you want. You
need to convert it to gas and enrich it. That does not
constitute an imminent threat, and the people who were
saying that, I think, did not fully appreciate the
difficulties and effort involved in producing the nuclear
material and the physics package."

No White House, Pentagon or State Department policymaker
agreed to speak on the record for this report about the
administration's nuclear case. Answering questions
Thursday before the National Association of Black
Journalists, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice
said she is "certain to this day that this regime was a
threat, that it was pursuing a nuclear weapon, that it had
biological and chemical weapons, that it had used them."
White House officials referred all questions of detail to

In an interview and a four-page written statement, Tenet
defended the NIE prepared under his supervision in
October. In that estimate, U.S. intelligence analysts
judged that Hussein was intent on acquiring a nuclear
weapon and was trying to rebuild the capability to make

"We stand behind the judgments of the NIE" based on the
evidence available at the time, Tenet said, and "the
soundness and integrity of our process." The estimate was
"the product of years of reporting and intelligence
collection, analyzed by numerous experts in several
different agencies."

Tenet said the time to "decide who was right and who was
wrong" about prewar intelligence will not come until the
Iraqi Survey Group, the CIA-directed, U.S. military
postwar study in Iraq of Hussein's weapons of mass
destruction programs is completed. The Bush
administration has said this will require months or years.

Facts and Doubts

The possibility of a nuclear-armed Iraq loomed large in
the Bush administration's efforts to convince the American
public of the need for a preemptive strike. Beginning
last August, Cheney portrayed Hussein's nuclear ambitions
as a "mortal threat" to the United States. In the fall
and winter, Rice, then Bush, marshaled the dreaded image
of a "mushroom cloud."

By many accounts, including those of career officials who
did not support the war, there were good reasons for
concern that the Iraqi president might revive a program to
enrich uranium to weapons grade and fabricate a working
bomb. He had a well-demonstrated aspiration for nuclear
weapons, a proficient scientific and engineering cadre, a
history of covert development and a domestic supply of
unrefined uranium ore. Iraq was generally believed to
have kept the technical documentation for two advanced
German centrifuge designs and the assembly diagrams for at
least one type of "implosion device," which detonates a
nuclear core.

What Hussein did not have was the principal requirement
for a nuclear weapon, a sufficient quantity of highly
enriched uranium or plutonium. And the U.S. government,
authoritative intelligence officials said, had only
circumstantial evidence that Iraq was trying to obtain
those materials.

But the Bush administration had reasons to imagine the
worst. The CIA had faced searing criticism for its
failures to foresee India's resumption of nuclear testing
in 1998 and to "connect the dots" pointing to al Qaeda's
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Cheney, the administration's
most influential advocate of a worst-case analysis, had
been powerfully influenced by his experience as defense
secretary just after the Persian Gulf War of 1991.

Former National Security Council official Richard A.
Clarke recalled how information from freshly seized Iraqi
documents disclosed the existence of a "crash program" to
build a bomb in 1991. The CIA had known nothing of it.

"I can understand why that was a seminal experience for
Cheney," Clarke said. "And when the CIA says [in 2002],
'We don't have any evidence,' his reaction is . . . 'We
didn't have any evidence in 1991, either. Why should I
believe you now?' "

Some strategists, in and out of government, argued that
the uncertainty itself -- in the face of circumstantial
evidence -- was sufficient to justify "regime change." But
that was not what the Bush administration usually said to
the American people.

To gird a nation for the extraordinary step of preemptive
war -- and to obtain the minimum necessary support from
allies, Congress and the U.N. Security Council -- the
administration described a growing, even imminent, nuclear
threat from Iraq.

'Nuclear Blackmail'

The unveiling of that message began a year ago this week.

Cheney raised the alarm about Iraq's nuclear menace three
times in August. He was far ahead of the president's
public line. Only Bush and Cheney know, one senior policy
official said, "whether Cheney was trying to push the
president or they had decided to play good cop, bad cop."

On Aug. 7, Cheney volunteered in a question-and-answer
session at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco,
speaking of Hussein, that "left to his own devices, it's
the judgment of many of us that in the not-too-distant
future, he will acquire nuclear weapons." On Aug. 26, he
described Hussein as a "sworn enemy of our country" who
constituted a "mortal threat" to the United States. He
foresaw a time in which Hussein could "subject the United
States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail."

"We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to
acquire nuclear weapons," he said. "Among other sources,
we've gotten this from firsthand testimony from defectors,
including Saddam's own son-in-law."

That was a reference to Hussein Kamel, who had managed
Iraq's special weapons programs before defecting in 1995
to Jordan. But Saddam Hussein lured Kamel back to Iraq,
and he was killed in February 1996, so Kamel could not
have sourced what U.S. officials "now know."

And Kamel's testimony, after defecting, was the reverse of
Cheney's description. In one of many debriefings by U.S.,
Jordanian and U.N. officials, Kamel said on Aug. 22,
1995, that Iraq's uranium enrichment programs had not
resumed after halting at the start of the Gulf War in
1991. According to notes typed for the record by U.N.
arms inspector Nikita Smidovich, Kamel acknowledged
efforts to design three different warheads, "but not now,
before the Gulf War."

'Educating the Public'

Systematic coordination began in August, when Chief of
Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. formed the White House Iraq
Group, or WHIG, to set strategy for each stage of the
confrontation with Baghdad. A senior official who
participated in its work called it "an internal working
group, like many formed for priority issues, to make sure
each part of the White House was fulfilling its

In an interview with the New York Times published Sept.
6, Card did not mention the WHIG but hinted at its
mission. "From a marketing point of view, you don't
introduce new products in August," he said.

The group met weekly in the Situation Room. Among the
regular participants were Karl Rove, the president's
senior political adviser; communications strategists Karen
Hughes, Mary Matalin and James R. Wilkinson; legislative
liaison Nicholas E. Calio; and policy advisers led by
Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, along with I.
Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff.

The first days of September would bring some of the most
important decisions of the prewar period:  what to demand
of the United Nations in the president's Sept. 12 address
to the General Assembly, when to take the issue to
Congress, and how to frame the conflict with Iraq in the
midterm election campaign that began in earnest after
Labor Day.

A "strategic communications" task force under the WHIG
began to plan speeches and white papers. There were many
themes in the coming weeks, but Iraq's nuclear menace was
among the most prominent.

'A Mushroom Cloud'

The day after publication of Card's marketing remark, Bush
and nearly all his top advisers began to talk about the
dangers of an Iraqi nuclear bomb.

Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair conferred at Camp David
that Saturday, Sept. 7, and they each described alarming
new evidence. Blair said proof that the threat is real
came in "the report from the International Atomic Energy
Agency this morning, showing what has been going on at the
former nuclear weapon sites." Bush said "a report came out
of the ... IAEA, that they [Iraqis] were six months
away from developing a weapon. I don't know what more
evidence we need."

There was no new IAEA report. Blair appeared to be
referring to news reports describing curiosity at the
nuclear agency about repairs at sites of Iraq's former
nuclear program. Bush cast as present evidence the
contents of a report from 1996, updated in 1998 and 1999.
In those accounts, the IAEA described the history of an
Iraqi nuclear weapons program that arms inspectors had
systematically destroyed.

A White House spokesman later acknowledged that Bush "was
imprecise" on his source but stood by the crux of his
charge. The spokesman said U.S. intelligence, not the
IAEA, had given Bush his information.

That, too, was garbled at best. U.S. intelligence
reports had only one scenario for an Iraqi bomb in six
months to a year, premised on Iraq's immediate acquisition
of enough plutonium or enriched uranium from a foreign

"That is just about the same thing as saying that if Iraq
gets a bomb, it will have a bomb," said a U.S.
intelligence analyst who covers the subject. "We had no
evidence for it."

Two debuts took place on Sept. 8:  the aluminum tubes and
the image of "a mushroom cloud." A Sunday New York Times
story quoted anonymous officials as saying the "diameter,
thickness and other technical specifications" of the tubes
-- precisely the grounds for skepticism among nuclear
enrichment experts -- showed that they were "intended as
components of centrifuges."

No one knows when Iraq will have its weapon, the story
said, but "the first sign of a 'smoking gun,' they argue,
may be a mushroom cloud."

Top officials made the rounds of Sunday talk shows that
morning. Rice's remarks echoed the newspaper story. She
said on CNN's "Late Edition" that Hussein was "actively
pursuing a nuclear weapon" and that the tubes -- described
repeatedly in U.S. intelligence reports as "dual-use"
items -- were "only really suited for nuclear weapons
programs, centrifuge programs."

"There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly
he can acquire nuclear weapons," Rice added, "but we don't
want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Anna Perez, a communications adviser to Rice, said Rice
did not come looking for an opportunity to say that.
"There was nothing in her mind that said, 'I have to push
the nuclear issue,' " Perez said, "but Wolf [Blitzer]
asked the question."

Powell, a confidant said, found it "disquieting when
people say things like mushroom clouds." But he
contributed in other ways to the message. When asked
about biological and chemical arms on Fox News, he brought
up nuclear weapons and cited the "specialized aluminum
tubing" that "we saw in reporting just this morning."

Cheney, on NBC's "Meet the Press," also mentioned the
tubes and said "increasingly, we believe the United States
will become the target" of an Iraqi nuclear weapon.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, on CBS's "Face the
Nation," asked listeners to "imagine a September 11th with
weapons of mass destruction," which would kill "tens of
thousands of innocent men, women and children."

Bush evoked the mushroom cloud on Oct. 7, and on Nov. 12
Gen. Tommy R. Franks, chief of U.S. Central Command,
said inaction might bring "the sight of the first mushroom
cloud on one of the major population centers on this

'Literary License'

In its initial meetings, Card's Iraq task force ordered a
series of white papers. After a general survey of Iraqi
arms violations, the first of the single-subject papers --
never published -- was "A Grave and Gathering Danger:
Saddam Hussein's Quest for Nuclear Weapons."

Wilkinson, at the time White House deputy director of
communications for planning, gathered a yard-high stack of
intelligence reports and press clippings.

Wilkinson said he conferred with experts from the National
Security Council and Cheney's office. Other officials
said Will Tobey and Susan Cook, working under senior
director for counterproliferation Robert Joseph, made
revisions and circulated some of the drafts. Under the
standard NSC review process, they checked the facts.

In its later stages, the draft white paper coincided with
production of a National Intelligence Estimate and its
unclassified summary. But the WHIG, according to three
officials who followed the white paper's progress, wanted
gripping images and stories not available in the hedged
and austere language of intelligence.

The fifth draft of the paper was obtained by The
Washington Post. White House spokesmen dismissed the
draft as irrelevant because Rice decided not to publish
it. Wilkinson said Rice and Joseph felt the paper "was
not strong enough."

The document offers insight into the Bush administration's
priorities and methods in shaping a nuclear message. The
white paper was assembled by some of the same team, and at
the same time, as the speeches and talking points prepared
for the president and top officials. A senior
intelligence official said last October that the
president's speechwriters took "literary license" with
intelligence, a phrase applicable to language used by
administration officials in some of the white paper's most
emotive and misleading assertions elsewhere.

The draft white paper precedes other known instances in
which the Bush administration considered the
now-discredited claim that Iraq "sought uranium oxide, an
essential ingredient in the enrichment process, from
Africa." For a speechwriter, uranium was valuable as an
image because anyone could see its connection to an atomic
bomb. Despite warnings from intelligence analysts, the
uranium would return again and again, including the Jan.
28 State of the Union address and three other Bush
administration statements that month.

Other errors and exaggerations in public White House
claims were repeated, or had their first mention, in the
white paper.

Much as Blair did at Camp David, the paper attributed to
U.N. arms inspectors a statement that satellite
photographs show "many signs of the reconstruction and
acceleration of the Iraqi nuclear program." Inspectors did
not say that. The paper also quoted the first half of a
sentence from a Time magazine interview with U.N. chief
weapons inspector Hans Blix:  "You can see hundreds of new
roofs in these photos." The second half of the sentence,
not quoted, was:  "but you don't know what's under them."

As Bush did, the white paper cited the IAEA's description
of Iraq's defunct nuclear program in language that
appeared to be current. The draft said, for example, that
"since the beginning of the nineties, Saddam has launched
a crash program to divert nuclear reactor fuel for . . .
nuclear weapons." The crash program began in late 1990 and
ended with the war in January 1991. The reactor fuel,
save for waste products, is gone.

'Footnotes and Disclaimers'

A senior intelligence official said the White House
preferred to avoid a National Intelligence Estimate, a
formal review of competing evidence and judgments, because
it knew "there were disagreements over details in almost
every aspect of the administration's case against Iraq."
The president's advisers, the official said, did not want
"a lot of footnotes and disclaimers."

But Bush needed bipartisan support for war-making
authority in Congress. In early September, members of the
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence began asking why
there had been no authoritative estimate of the danger
posed by Iraq. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) wrote
Sept. 9 of his "concern that the views of the U.S.
intelligence community are not receiving adequate
attention by policymakers in both Congress and the
executive branch." When Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), then
committee chairman, insisted on an NIE in a classified
letter two days later, Tenet agreed.

Explicitly intended to assist Congress in deciding whether
to authorize war, the estimate was produced in two weeks,
an extraordinary deadline for a document that usually
takes months. Tenet said in an interview that "we had
covered parts of all those programs over 10 years through
NIEs and other reports, and we had a ton of community
product on all these issues."

Even so, the intelligence community was now in a position
of giving its first coordinated answer to a question that
every top national security official had already answered.
"No one outside the intelligence community told us what to
say or not to say," Tenet wrote in reply to questions for
this article.

The U.S. government possessed no specific information on
Iraqi efforts to acquire enriched uranium, according to
six people who participated in preparing for the estimate.
It knew only that Iraq sought to buy equipment of the sort
that years of intelligence reports had said "may be"
intended for or "could be" used in uranium enrichment.

Richard J. Kerr, a former CIA deputy director now leading
a review of the agency's intelligence analysis about Iraq,
said in an interview that the CIA collected almost no hard
information about Iraq's weapons programs after the
departure of IAEA and U.N. Special Commission, or UNSCOM,
arms inspectors during the Clinton administration. He
said that was because of a lack of spies inside Iraq.

Tenet took issue with that view, saying in an interview,
"When inspectors were pushed out in 1998, we did not sit
back. . . . The fact is we made significant
professional progress." In his written statement, he cited
new evidence on biological and missile programs, but did
not mention Hussein's nuclear pursuits.

The estimate's "Key Judgment" said:  "Although we assess
that Saddam does not yet have nuclear weapons or
sufficient material to make any, he remains intent on
acquiring them. Most agencies assess that Baghdad started
reconstituting its nuclear program about the time that
UNSCOM inspectors departed -- December 1998."

According to Kerr, the analysts had good reasons to say
that, but the reasons were largely "inferential."

Hussein was known to have met with some weapons
physicists, and praised them as "nuclear mujaheddin." But
the CIA had "reasonably good intelligence in terms of the
general activities and whereabouts" of those scientists,
said another analyst with the relevant clearances, and
knew they had generally not reassembled into working
groups. In a report to Congress in 2001, the agency could
conclude only that some of the scientists "probably" had
"continued at least low-level theoretical R&D [research
and development] associated with its nuclear program."

Analysts knew Iraq had tried recently to buy magnets,
high-speed balancing machines, machine tools and other
equipment that had some potential for use in uranium
enrichment, though no less for conventional industry.
Even assuming the intention, the parts could not all be
made to fit a coherent centrifuge model. The estimate
acknowledged that "we lack specific information on many
key aspects" of the program, and analysts presumed they
were seeing only the tip of the iceberg.

'He Made a Name'

According to outside scientists and intelligence
officials, the most important factor in the CIA's nuclear
judgment was Iraq's attempt to buy high-strength aluminum
tubes. The tubes were the core evidence for a centrifuge
program tied to building a nuclear bomb. Even
circumstantially, the CIA reported no indication of
uranium enrichment using anything but centrifuges.

That interpretation of the tubes was a victory for the man
named Joe, who made the issue his personal crusade. He
worked in the gas centrifuge program at Oak Ridge National
Laboratory in the early 1980s. He is not, associates
said, a nuclear physicist, but an engineer whose work
involved the platform upon which centrifuges were mounted.

At some point he joined the CIA. By the end of the 1990s,
according to people who know him casually, he worked in
export controls.

Joe played an important role in discovering Iraq's plans
to buy aluminum tubes from China in 2000, with an
Australian intermediary. U.N. sanctions forbade Iraq to
buy anything with potential military applications, and
members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a voluntary
alliance, include some forms of aluminum tubing on their
list of equipment that could be used for uranium

Joe saw the tubes as centrifuge rotors that could be used
to process uranium into weapons-grade material. In a gas
centrifuge, the rotor is a thin-walled cylinder, open at
both ends, that spins at high speed under a magnet. The
device extracts the material used in a weapon from a
gaseous form of uranium.

In July 2001, about 3,000 tubes were intercepted in Jordan
on their way to Iraq, a big step forward in the agency's
efforts to understand what Iraq was trying to do. The CIA
gave Joe an award for exceptional performance, throwing
its early support to an analysis that helped change the
agency's mind about Iraq's pursuit of nuclear ambitions.

"He grabbed that information early on, and he made a name
for himself," a career U.S. government nuclear expert

'Stretches the Imagination'

Doubts about Joe's theory emerged quickly among the
government's centrifuge physicists. The intercepted tubes
were too narrow, long and thick-walled to fit a known
centrifuge design. Aluminum had not been used for rotors
since the 1950s. Iraq had two centrifuge blueprints,
stolen in Europe, that were far more efficient and already
known to work. One used maraging steel, a hard steel
alloy, for the rotors, the other carbon fiber.

Joe and his supporters said the apparent drawbacks were
part of Iraq's concealment plan. Hussein's history of
covert weapons development, Tenet said in his written
statement, included "built-in cover stories."

"This is a case where different people had honorable and
different interpretations of intentions," said an Energy
Department analyst who has reviewed the raw data. "If you
go to a nuclear [counterproliferation official] and say
I've got these aluminum tubes, and it's about Iraq, his
first inclination is to say it's for nuclear use."

But the government's centrifuge scientists -- at the
Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and its
sister institutions -- unanimously regarded this
possibility as implausible.

In late 2001, experts at Oak Ridge asked an alumnus,
Houston G. Wood III, to review the controversy. Wood,
founder of the Oak Ridge centrifuge physics department, is
widely acknowledged to be among the most eminent living

Speaking publicly for the first time, Wood said in an
interview that "it would have been extremely difficult to
make these tubes into centrifuges. It stretches the
imagination to come up with a way. I do not know any real
centrifuge experts that feel differently."

As an academic, Wood said, he would not describe "anything
that you absolutely could not do." But he said he would
"like to see, if they're going to make that claim, that
they have some explanation of how you do that. Because I
don't see how you do it."

A CIA spokesman said the agency does have support for its
view from centrifuge experts. He declined to elaborate.

In the last week of September, the development of the NIE
required a resolution of the running disagreement over the
significance of the tubes. The Energy Department had one
vote. Four agencies -- with specialties including
eavesdropping, maps and foreign military forces -- judged
that the tubes were part of a centrifuge program that
could be used for nuclear weapons. Only the State
Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research joined
the judgment of the Energy Department. The estimate, as
published, said that "most analysts" believed the tubes
were suitable and intended for a centrifuge cascade.

Majority votes make poor science, said Peter D.
Zimmerman, a former chief scientist at the Arms Control
and Disarmament Agency.

"In this case, the experts were at Z Division at Livermore
[Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory] and in DOE
intelligence here in town, and they were convinced that no
way in hell were these likely to be centrifuge tubes," he

Tenet said the Department of Energy was not the only
agency with experts on the issue; the CIA consulted
military battlefield rocket experts, as well as its own
centrifuge experts.


On Feb. 5, two weeks after Joe's Vienna briefing, Powell
gave what remains the government's most extensive account
of the aluminum tubes, in an address to the U.N. Security
Council. He did not mention the existence of the Medusa
rocket or its Iraqi equivalent, though he acknowledged
disagreement among U.S. intelligence analysts about the
use of the tubes.

Powell's CIA briefers, using data originating with Joe,
told him that Iraq had "overspecified" requirements for
the tubes, increasing expense without making them more
useful to rockets. That helped persuade Powell, a
confidant said, that Iraq had some other purpose for the

"Maybe Iraqis just manufacture their conventional weapons
to a higher standard than we do, but I don't think so,"
Powell said in his speech. He said different batches
"seized clandestinely before they reached Iraq" showed a
"progression to higher and higher levels of specification,
including in the latest batch an anodized coating on
extremely smooth inner and outer surfaces. . . . Why
would they continue refining the specification, go to all
that trouble for something that, if it was a rocket, would
soon be blown into shrapnel when it went off?"

An anodized coating is actually a strong argument for use
in rockets, according to several scientists in and out of
government. It resists corrosion of the sort that ruined
Iraq's previous rocket supply. To use the tubes in a
centrifuge, experts told the government, Iraq would have
to remove the anodized coating.

Iraq did change some specifications from order to order,
the procurement records show, but there is not a clear
progression to higher precision. One tube sample was
rejected because its interior was unfinished, too uneven
to be used in a rocket body. After one of Iraq's old
tubes got stuck in a launcher and exploded, Baghdad's
subsequent orders asked for more precision in roundness.

U.S. and European analysts said they had obtained records
showing that Italy's Medusa rocket has had its
specifications improved 10 times since 1978. Centrifuge
experts said in interviews that the variations had little
or no significance for uranium enrichment, especially
because the CIA's theory supposes Iraq would do extensive
machining to adapt the tubes as rotors.

For rockets, however, the tubes fit perfectly. Experts
from U.S. national labs, working temporarily with U.N.
inspectors in Iraq, observed production lines for the
rockets at the Nasser factory north of Baghdad. Iraq had
run out of body casings at about the time it ordered the
aluminum tubes, according to officials familiar with the
experts' reports. Thousands of warheads, motors and fins
were crated at the assembly lines, awaiting the arrival of

"Most U.S. experts," Powell asserted, "think they are
intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich
uranium." He said "other experts, and the Iraqis
themselves," said the tubes were really for rockets.

Wood, the centrifuge physicist, said "that was a personal
slam at everybody in DOE," the Energy Department. "I've
been grouped with the Iraqis, is what it amounts to. I
just felt that the wording of that was probably
intentional, but it was also not very kind. It did not
recognize that dissent can exist."

Staff writers Glenn Kessler, Dana Priest and Richard Morin
and staff researchers Lucy Shackelford, Madonna Lebling
and Robert Thomason contributed to this report.

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