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[casi] AP Staffer Fact-Checks Powell's UN Speech

SEPTEMBER 09, 2003
AP Staffer Fact-Checks Powell's UN Speech
Key Claims Didn't Hold Up

By E&P Staff

Last month, Charles J. Hanley, special correspondent
for the Associated Press and winner of a Pulitzer
Prize in 2000, wrote a devastating 2,500-word critique
of claims made by Secretary of State Colin Powell in
his influential Feb. 5 speech to the United Nations on
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In a column
published this week, E&P Editor Greg Mitchell calls
this speech the single most important moment in the
march to war -- and charges that the media's
unquestioning endorsement of Powell's assertions made
invasion inevitable. Here are brief, edited excerpts
from the Hanley article (available in its entirety at

ALUMINUM TUBES: Powell said "most United States
experts" believed aluminum tubes sought by Iraq were
intended for use as centrifuge cylinders for enriching
uranium for nuclear bombs.
Energy Department experts and Powell's own State
Department intelligence bureau had already dissented
from this CIA view... No centrifuge program has been
reported found.

REVIVED NUCLEAR PROGRAM: "We have no indication that
Saddam Hussein has ever abandoned his nuclear weapons
program," Powell said.

On July 24, Foreign Minister Ana Palacio of Spain, a
U.S. ally on Iraq, said there was "no evidence, no
proof" of a nuclear bomb program before the war. No
such evidence has been reported found since the

DECONTAMINATION VEHICLES: At two sites, Powell said
trucks were "decontamination vehicles" associated with
chemical weapons.

Nothing has been reported found since... Norwegian
inspector Jorn Siljeholm told AP on March 19 that
"decontamination vehicles" U.N. teams were led to by
U.S. information invariably turned out to be water or
fire trucks.

BIOWEAPONS TRAILERS: Powell said defectors had told of
"biological weapons factories" on trucks and in train
cars. He displayed artists' conceptions of such

After the invasion, U.S. authorities said they found
two such truck trailers in Iraq, and the CIA said it
concluded they were part of a bioweapons production
line. But no trace of biological agents was found on
them, Iraqis said the equipment made hydrogen for
weather balloons, and State Department intelligence
balked at the CIA's conclusion.

DESERT WEAPONS: According to Powell, unidentified
sources said the Iraqis dispersed rocket launchers and
warheads holding biological weapons to the western
desert, hiding them in palm groves and moving them
every one to four weeks.

Nothing has been reported found, after months of
searching by U.S. and Australian troops in the nearly
empty desert.

ANTHRAX: Powell noted Iraq had declared it produced
8,500 liters of the biological agent anthrax before
1991. None has been "verifiably accounted for," he

No anthrax has been reported found, post-invasion. The
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), in a confidential
report last September (five months before the Powell
speech) said that although it believed Iraq had
biological weapons it didn't know their nature,
amounts, or condition.

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Powell showed video of an Iraqi F-1
Mirage jet spraying "simulated anthrax." He said four
such spray tanks were unaccounted for, and Iraq was
building small unmanned aircraft "well suited for
dispensing chemical and biological weapons."

According to U.N. inspectors' reports, the video
predated the 1991 Gulf War, when the Mirage was said
to have been destroyed, and three of the four spray
tanks were destroyed in the 1990s. No small drones or
other planes with chemical-biological capability have
been reported found in Iraq since the invasion.

FOUR TONS OF VX: Powell said Iraq produced four tons
of the nerve agent VX.

Powell didn't note that most of that was destroyed in
the 1990s under U.N. supervision. No VX has been
reported found since the invasion. Experts at
Britain's International Institute of Strategic Studies
said any pre-1991 VX most likely would have degraded

'EMBEDDED' CAPABILITY: "We know that Iraq has embedded
key portions of its illicit chemical weapons
infrastructure within its legitimate civilian
industry," Powell said.

No "chemical weapons infrastructure" has been reported
found. The recently-disclosed DIA report of last
September said there was "no reliable information" on
where Iraq might have established chem-warfare

CHEMICAL AGENTS: "Our conservative estimate is that
Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons
of chemical-weapons agent," Powell said.

Powell gave no basis for the assertion, and no such
agents have been reported found. That same DIA report
had reported "no reliable information on whether Iraq
is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons."

CHEMICAL WEAPONS: "Saddam Hussein has chemical
weapons...And we have sources who tell us that he
recently has authorized his field commanders to use
them," Powell said.

No such weapons were used in the war and none was
reported found.

CHEMICAL WARHEADS: Powell said 122-mm "chemical"
warheads found by U.N. inspectors in January might be
the "tip of an iceberg."

The warheads were empty, a fact Powell didn't note. No
others have been reported found since the invasion.

SCUDS, NEW MISSILES: Powell said "intelligence
sources" indicate Iraq had a secret force of up to a
few dozen prohibited Scud-type missiles. He said it
also had a program to build newer, 600-mile-range

No Scud-type missiles have been reported found. No
program for long-range missiles has been reported.

Source: Editor & Publisher Online

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