March- April 2004

In this Issue: 


"Everyone was wrong. Outside experts like myself and other intelligence agencies. . . including the Germans and the French believed he [Saddam Hussain] had weapons."

Former Chief Inspector David A. Kay, January 27, 2004

David Kay is Oh Kay?

Having resigned from his job as number-one hunter of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, David Kay reported to the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 28 what had been leaking to the media for a week; namely, that we hadnít found any WMDs in Iraq and werenít likely to because he didnít think there were any. His testimony fueled charges by Democratic candidates in the presidential primaries that President Bush had misled the nation into the Iraq War by exaggerating the threat.

David Kay wasnít having any of that. He denied suggestions that intelligence analysts in the CIA were under pressure to bolster the case for war. "I had innumerable analysts who came to me in apology that the world we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed and that they had estimated," he said. "And never, not in a single case, was the explanation, ĎI was pressured to do this.í"

Kay argued that his team had accomplished 85 percent of the search for WMDs and had come up empty. In his judgment, it is most likely that there arenít any in Iraq. How could the intelligence services of so many countries have been so wrong?

There seemed to be no good answer to this question. One suggestion was that the Hussein regime had sent the WMDs through Syria to the Bekaa valley of Lebanon, which is pretty much under the control of terrorist groups. Another proposed explanation was that the Iraqi scientists had been faking it to Hussein so he didnít know there werenít any. None of the proposed explanations were convincing. A demand arose for an independent panel to investigate what appeared to be a huge intelligence failure. The silence on the political front also is remarkable. A February 20 op-ed piece by James Schlesinger is entitled, "The ABM Treatyís Quiet Demise." Said Dr. Schlesinger, "The mild Russian reaction deflated the sometimes hysterical protests from the treatyís supporters abroad. European governments, which had denounced President Bush

President Bush agreed and, during the first week of February, he appointed a nine-member bipartisan panel to investigate. About the same time, CIA chief George Tenet gave a speech defending the performance of his agency and claiming that the search for WMDs was far from 85 percent complete. He asked for more time to find the hidden weapons.

Even so, David Kay could be right. And if our intelligence was far off on Iraq, we should be suspicious of what is commonly believed about other parts of the Axis of Evil. For example, North Korea is credited with having one or two nuclear weapons. Of course, the CIA does not actually say this. What the intelligence community says is that North Korea may have acquired enough fissionable material for one or a few nuclear weapons. North Korea has neither claimed nor denied that it had such weapons and has never tested one. A nuclear test explosion has been the usual declaration of possession. Having the fissionable material and having a working weapon happen to be two different things.

Six-Nation Talks Scheduled

On February 3, North Korea agreed to a resumption of the six-nation talks regarding its nuclear weapons program. The talks were held in Beijing on February 25. Thus, it appears that the Chinese have fulfilled their part of the bargain we suggested was made with the Bush Administration by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao during his visit in early December.

The agreement to meet got very little media coverage. AP referred to it in a dispatch on another matter. It seems there was an "inter-Korean Cabinet-level meeting" in Seoul on January 4, the day after the agreement to hold six-nation talks was reached. This inter-Korean meeting brought cabinet ministers from the two Koreas together to discuss issues and apparently is a regular occurrence these days. At this meeting South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun took the opportunity to urge the North to completely dismantle its nuclear program as a step toward inter-Korean harmony. To which North Korean Unification Minister Kim Rayon Song retorted that the South had succumbed to US pressure to hold inter-Korean economic exchanges hostage to progress in nuclear negotiations.

The February 25 meeting lasted four days and accomplished little on the surface. North Korea blocked the adoption of a joint declaration calling for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula by insisting on last-minute changes of a minor nature. But a senior US official boasted that the United States had succeeded in persuading Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia to accept a goal of the "complete, verifiable and irreversible" dismantling of North Koreaís nuclear programs.

The North Koreans emphasized their civilian nuclear power needs throughout the talks. This is becoming known as the "Iranian gambit," as the Iranians have been quite successful at developing nuclear weapons capabilities under the cover of a civilian nuclear power program.

"We do have an atomic power industry which has a lot of purposes, and we cannot give it up," said Kim Gye Gwan, North Koreaís chief delegate. "We need this nuclear energy in different aspects. We need it in medical areas. We needed it in agricultural areas as well as for electricity. We cannot afford to forego all these activities." According to one diplomat, the North Koreans were asked repeatedly to explain their civilian program but were evasive.

One solid accomplishment of the February talks was agreement by all six governments to set up a working level group to continue negotiations and to hold a third round of talks before July. In this respect, the four days of discussions have been more useful than the talks in August.

Libya Tells All

Having renounced its nuclear program, Libya sent a shipload of developmental equipment to the US and opened its files to inspectors from the UN and the US. This intelligence bonanza put the finger squarely on Pakistan as the origin of the proliferation. A Pakistani official told reporters, "Some individuals may have been doing something on their own" and the government continued to deny allegations that it had aided the nuclear programs of Iran, North Korea and Libya. The information from Libya, however, led directly to Abdul Qadeer Khan, who led the development of the first Muslim nuclear bomb and consequently is a national hero in Pakistan.

The involvement of Dr. Khan presented a problem for President Bush as it was by no means certain that the Pakistani government could punish the nuclear hero in the face of public opinion. After several days of quiet diplomacy, President Pervez Musharraf removed Dr. Khan from his position as head of the Pakistani nuclear agency. Several days later, Dr. Khan went on national TV to admit responsibility for "leaks of nuclear secrets" without the governmentís knowledge. "I have chosen to appear before you to offer my deepest regrets and unqualified apologies to a traumatized nation. I take full responsibilty for my actions and seek your pardon," he said.

The cabinet met the next day to decide whether to recommend a trial. Khanís public apology may have done the trick, as the following day, February 6, President Musharraf pardoned Dr. Khan. The probe into the matter, however, had just begun.

Three days after Khan confessed on television, intelligence officials said they were just beginning to understand the scale of the network, a global enterprise that supplied nuclear technology and equipment to Libya, Iran, North Korea and possibly other nations. "Dr. Khan was nt working alone," said Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, "Dr. Khan was part of a process. There were items that were manufactured in other countries. There were items that were assembled in a different country."

According to the Washington Post, Khanís nuclear trading network represented one of the most egregious cases of nuclear proliferation ever discovered. Using suppliers and middlemen scattered across three continents, the network delivered a variety of machines and technology for enriching uranium. In the case of Libya, at least, it provided blueprints for the bombs themselves.

Diplomats familiar with the investigation say Khan and his closest associates were the "salesmen" who filled orders for Libya and other customers. The Pakistanis relayed the orders to middlemen, who in turn found suppliers. "It was a remarkable network that was able in the end to provide a turn-key gas centrifuge facility and the wherewithal to make more centrifuges," said David Albright, a physicist who has studied the nuclear procurement networks of Iran and Libya. "The technology holder was always Khan. Suppliers came and went, but Khan was always there."

On February 11, in the wake of the Libyan exposť, President Bush proposed new safeguards to prevent the global proliferation of nuclear weapons in a speech at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, DC. "There is a consensus among nations that proliferation cannot be tolerated. Yet, this consensus among nations means little unless it is translated into action. Every civilized nation has a stake in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction."

Bush called for the creation of a new committee within the UNís International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to establish and enforce safeguards and to verify that nations are complying with them. He also demanded that the IAEA bar nations that violate international accords from holding powerful positions on the organizationís Board of Governors. The President was referring to Iran, which sits on the board and has admitted within the past year to have violated its agreement for the past 18 years.

"For international norms to be effective, they must be enforced. It is the charge of the IAEA to uncover banned nuclear activity around the world and report these violations to the U.N. Security Council. The integrity and mission of the IAEA depends on this simple principle: Those actively breaking the rules should not be entrusted with enforcing the rules," he said.