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[casi] US Senators told Iraqi weapons could hit U.S.

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Wonder why this story is coming out just

Senators were told Iraqi weapons could hit U.S.

Nelson said claim made during classified briefing

By John McCarthy

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday the Bush administration last year told him and other senators 
that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction, but they had the means to deliver them to East 
Coast cities.

Nelson, D-Tallahassee, said about 75 senators got that news during a classified briefing before 
last October's congressional vote authorizing the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. 
Nelson voted in favor of using military force.

Nelson said he couldn't reveal who in the administration gave the briefing.

The White House directed questions about the matter to the Department of Defense. Defense officials 
had no comment on Nelson's claim.

Nelson said the senators were told Iraq had both biological and chemical weapons, notably anthrax, 
and it could deliver them to cities along the Eastern seaboard via unmanned aerial vehicles, 
commonly known as drones.

"They have not found anything that resembles an UAV that has that capability," Nelson said.

Nelson delivered the news during a half-hour conference call with reporters Monday afternoon. The 
senator, who is on a seven-nation trade mission to South America, was calling from an airport in 
Santiago, Chile.

"That's news," said John Pike, director of, a Washington, D.C.-area military and 
intelligence think tank. "I had not heard that that was the assessment of the intelligence 
community. I had not heard that the Congress had been briefed on this."

Since the late 1990s, there have been several reports that Iraq was converting a fleet of 
Czechoslovakian jet fighters into UAVs, as well as testing smaller drones. And in a speech in 
Cincinnati last October, Bush mentioned the vehicles. "We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways 
of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States," the president said.

Nelson, though, said the administration told senators Iraq had gone beyond exploring and developed 
the means of hitting the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction.

Nelson wouldn't say what the original source of the intelligence was, but said it contradicted 
other intelligence reports senators had received. He said he wants to find out why there was so 
much disagreement about the weapons. "If that is an intelligence failure . . . we better find that 
out so we don't have an intelligence failure in the future."

Pike said any UAVs Iraq might have had would have had a range of only several hundred kilometers, 
enough to hit targets in the Middle East but not the United States. To hit targets on the East 
Coast, such drones would have to be launched from a ship in Atlantic. He said it wasn't out of the 
question for Iraq to have secretly acquired a tramp steamer from which such vehicles could have 
been launched.

"The notion that someone could launch a missile from a ship off our shores has been on Rummy's mind 
for years," Pike said, referring to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Sen. Bob Graham, who voted against using military force in Iraq, didn't return phone calls 
concerning the briefing. Spokespersons for Reps. Dave Weldon and Tom Feeney said neither 
congressman could say if they had received similar briefings since they don't comment on classified 

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