A great deal has been said and written about the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction. Much of this commentary has been misinformed, misleading, and just plain wrong. It is important to set the record straight. Let me make three points.
We stand behind the judgments of the NIE as well as our analyses on Iraq’s programs over the past decade. Those outside the process over the past ten years and many of those commenting today do not know, or are misrepresenting, the facts. We have a solid, well-analyzed and carefully written account in the NIE and the numerous products before it.
After David Kay and others finish their efforts—after we have exploited all the documents, people and sites in Iraq—we should and will stand back to professionally review where we are—but not before.
The history of our judgments on Iraq’s weapons programs is clear and consistent. On biological weapons and missiles our data got stronger in recent years. We have had a solid historical foundation and new data that have allowed us to make judgments and attribute high confidence in specific areas. And we had numerous credible sources, including many who provided information after 1998. When inspectors were pushed out in 1998, we did not sit back. Rather, we significantly increased our collection efforts throughout the Intelligence Community. In other words, despite what many read in the media that the NIE is based on nothing—no sources, no understanding of complicated procurement networks, etc.—the fact is we made significant professional progress.
The National Intelligence Estimate remains the Intelligence Community's most authoritative product. The process by which we produce NIEs—including the one on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction—has been honed over nearly 30 years. It is a process that is designed to provide policymakers in both the executive and the legislative branches with our best judgments on the most crucial national security issues. This process is designed to produce coordinated judgments—but not to the exclusion of differing views or without exposing uncertainties. During coordination, agencies send representatives who are actively engaged and change NIE drafts to reflect better the views of the experts in their respective agencies. It is an open and vigorous process that allows for dissent to be registered by individual agencies in the final product. Indeed, alternative views are encouraged. Finally, the NIE is reviewed by the directors of US intelligence agencies composing the DCI-chaired National Foreign Intelligence Board, including in this case, CIA, DIA, INR, NSA, DoE, and NIMA. This rigorous NIE process has served this nation well.
Building upon ten years of analysis, intelligence reporting, and inspections that had to fight through Iraq’s aggressive denial and deception efforts, including phony and incomplete data declarations to the UN and programs explicitly designed with built-in cover stories, the Intelligence Community prepared the NIE on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. In it we judged that the entire body of information over that ten years made clear that Saddam had never abandoned his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
Nuclear program. Shortly after the Gulf war of 1990-91 the International Atomic Energy Agency and the US Intelligence Community were surprised at how much more advanced Iraq’s program was prior to the war than had been judged previously. In fact, the IAEA’s 1996 report indicated that Iraq could have completed its first nuclear device by as early as late 1992 had the program not been derailed by the Gulf war. Intelligence analysts reevaluated Iraq’s nuclear program in 1994 and 1997 in light of the body of inspection revelations and seized documents and concluded that Iraq could have a nuclear weapon within a year of obtaining sufficient material and, if unconstrained, would take five to seven years with foreign assistance to produce enough fissile material. Those judgments, to which all agencies agreed, have remained consistent for years.
The NIE points out that by 2002, all agencies assessed that Saddam did not yet have nuclear weapons or sufficient fissile material to make any, but never abandoned his nuclear weapons ambitions. Moreover, most agencies believed that Iraq’s attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuge rotors, magnets, high-speed balancing machines, and machine tools, as well as Iraq’s efforts to enhance its cadre of weapons personnel and activities at several suspect nuclear sites indicated that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam’s personal interest in some of these efforts was also considered. DOE agreed that reconstitution was underway, but assessed that the tubes probably were not part of the program. INR assessed that Baghdad was pursuing at least a limited effort to acquire nuclear weapon-related capabilities, but not an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons; INR was not persuaded that the tubes were intended for the nuclear program. All other agencies, including DOE, assessed that Iraq probably would not have a weapon until 2007 to 2009, consistent with the decade-old judgment of Iraq needing five to seven years to develop a weapons-grade uranium enrichment capability if freed from constraints. These judgments and the six elements upon which the reconstitution judgment was based were agreed to by those agencies during coordination of the NIE and at the meeting of the heads of all the intelligence agencies before publication.
Even though the tubes constituted only one of the six elements underpinning the other agencies’ judgment on reconstitution, I will discuss it briefly. We need to point out that DOE is not the only agency that has experts on the issue. CIA has centrifuge and rocket experts. The National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC)—the US military’s center for analysis of foreign conventional weaponry—has battlefield rocket experts. These experts, along with those from DOE, were involved in the NIE process and their views were recorded. All agencies agreed that the tubes could be used to build gas centrifuges for a uranium enrichment program, so we are talking about differences in agency views about intent.
Not surprisingly, the Iraqis went to great lengths to mask their intentions across the board, including in their efforts to acquire tubes with increasingly higher sets of specifications. Thus, the fact that we had alternative views on the issue would be expected. But the NIE went to great lengths to spell out those views. Many reading these alternative views, however, almost certainly recalled how far Iraq had come in the early 1990s toward a nuclear weapon without our knowledge, making all the factors leading us to the reconstitution judgment more important.
Biological Weapons. All agencies of the Intelligence Community since 1995 have judged that Iraq retained biological weapons and that the BW program continued. In 1999 we assessed Iraq had revitalized its program. New intelligence acquired in 2000 provided compelling information about Iraq’s ongoing offensive BW activities, describing construction of mobile BW agent production plants—reportedly designed to evade detection—with the potential to turn out several hundred tons of unconcentrated BW agent per year. Thus, it was not a new story in 2002 when all agencies judged in the NIE that Iraq had biological weapons—that it had some lethal and incapacitating BW agents—and was capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax. We judged that most of the key aspects of Iraq’s offensive BW program were more advanced than before the Gulf war.
Chemical Weapons. As early as 1994, all agencies assessed that Iraq could begin limited production of chemical agents almost immediately after UN sanctions, inspections and monitoring efforts were ended. By 1997, the Intelligence Community judged that Iraq was protecting a breakout capability to produce more weapons and agent quickly. We further assessed in 1997, that within months Iraq could restart full-scale production of sarin and that pre-Desert Storm agent production levels—including production of VX—could be achieved in two to three years. And so it was not a surprising story when all agencies judged in the NIE in 2002 that Baghdad possessed chemical weapons, had begun renewed production of mustard, sarin, cyclosarin, and VX and probably had at least 100 metric tons (MT) and possibly as much as 500 MT of CW agents, much of it added in the last year.
Delivery Systems. The Intelligence Community’s assessment on the possibility of Iraq having a few covert Scuds has been consistent since at least 1995. As Iraq continued to develop its short-range missiles, we collected more data and by 1999 were able to begin determining that both missiles were capable of flying over 150 km. Also by 1999 we had noted that according to multiple sources, Iraq was conducting a high-priority program to convert jet trainer aircraft to lethal UAVs, likely intended for delivering biological agents. Again, not a new story for the NIE to judge that Iraq maintained a small missile force and several development programs, including an UAV that could deliver a biological warfare agent.
In sum, the NIE on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was the product of years of reporting and intelligence collection, analyzed by numerous experts in several different agencies. Our judgments have been consistent on this subject because the evidence has repeatedly pointed to continued Iraqi pursuit of WMD and efforts to conceal that pursuit from international scrutiny. Modifications of our judgments have reflected new evidence, much of which was acquired because of our intensified collection efforts. Thus, noting that Saddam had continued to pursue weapons of mass destruction was not startling. That he probably was hiding weapons was not new. That he would seek means to improve his capabilities using alternative-use cover stories would have been expected. That we would have alternative views is respected as part of the process. We stand by the soundness and integrity of our process, and no one outside the Intelligence Community told us what to say or not to say in this Estimate.
As with any other topic addressed in an NIE, the acquisition of further evidence may confirm some of our judgments while calling others into question. Operation Iraqi Freedom obviously has opened a major new opportunity for learning about the WMD activities of Saddam Husayn’s regime. We have no doubt, however, that the NIE was the most reasonable, well-grounded, and objective assessment of Iraq’s WMD programs that was possible at the time it was produced.
Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction
We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade. (See INR alternative view at the end of these Key Judgments.)
We judge that we are seeing only a portion of Iraq's WMD efforts, owing to Baghdad's vigorous denial and deception efforts. Revelations after the Gulf war starkly demonstrate the extensive efforts undertaken by Iraq to deny information. We lack specific information on many key aspects of Iraq's WMD programs.
Since inspections ended in 1998, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort, energized its missile program, and invested more heavily in biological weapons; in the view of most agencies, Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.
· Iraq's growing ability to sell oil illicitly increases Baghdad's capabilities to finance WMD programs; annual earnings in cash and goods have more than quadrupled, from $580 million in 1998 to about $3 billion this year.
· Iraq has largely rebuilt missile and biological weapons facilities damaged during Operation Desert Fox and has expanded its chemical and biological infrastructure under the cover of civilian production.
· Baghdad has exceeded UN range limits of 150 km with its ballistic missiles and is working with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which allow for a more lethal means to deliver biological and, less likely, chemical warfare agents.
· 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.
How quickly Iraq will obtain its first nuclear weapon depends on when it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material.
· If Baghdad acquires sufficient fissile material from abroad it could make a nuclear weapon within several months to a year.
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· Without such material from abroad, Iraq probably would not be able to make a weapon until 2007 to 2009, owing to inexperience in building and operating centrifuge facilities to produce highly enriched uranium and challenges in procuring the necessary equipment and expertise.
- Most agencies believe that Saddam's personal interest in and Iraq's aggressive attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuge rotors-as well as Iraq's attempts to acquire magnets, high-speed balancing machines, and machine tools-provide compelling evidence that Saddam is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program. (DOE agrees that reconstitution of the nuclear program is underway but assesses that the tubes probably are not part of the program.)- Iraq's efforts to re-establish and enhance its cadre of weapons personnel as well as activities at several suspect nuclear sites further indicate that reconstitution is underway.- All agencies agree that about 25,000 centrifuges based on tubes of the size Iraq is trying to acquire would be capable of producing approximately two weapons' worth of highly enriched uranium per year.
We assess that Baghdad has begun renewed production of mustard, sarin, GF (cyclosarin), and VX; its capability probably is more limited now than it was at the time of the Gulf war, although VX production and agent storage life probably have been improved.
· An array of clandestine reporting reveals that Baghdad has procured covertly the types and quantities of chemicals and equipment sufficient to allow limited CW agent production hidden within Iraq's legitimate chemical industry.
· Although we have little specific information on Iraq's CW stockpile, Saddam probably has stocked at least 100 metric tons (MT) and possibly as much as 500 MT of CW agents-much of it added in the last year.
· The Iraqis have experience in manufacturing CW bombs, artillery rockets, and projectiles. We assess that that they possess CW bulk fills for SRBM warheads, including for a limited number of covertly stored Scuds, possibly a few with extended ranges.
We judge that all key aspects-R&D, production, and weaponization-of Iraq's offensive BW program are active and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf war.
· We judge Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating BW agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives.
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- Chances are even that smallpox is part of Iraq's offensive BW program.- Baghdad probably has developed genetically engineered BW agents.
- Baghdad has mobile facilities for producing bacterial and toxin BW agents; these facilities can evade detection and are highly survivable. Within three to six months* these units probably could produce an amount of agent equal to the total that Iraq produced in the years prior to the Gulf war.
· Gaps in Iraqi accounting to UNSCOM suggest that Saddam retains a covert force of up to a few dozen Scud-variant SRBMs with ranges of 650 to 900 km.
· Iraq is deploying its new al-Samoud and Ababil-100 SRBMs, which are capable of flying beyond the UN-authorized 150-km range limit; Iraq has tested an al-Samoud variant beyond 150 km-perhaps as far as 300 km.
· Baghdad's UAVs could threaten Iraq's neighbors, US forces in the Persian Gulf, and if brought close to, or into, the United States, the US Homeland.
- An Iraqi UAV procurement network attempted to procure commercially available route planning software and an associated topographic database that would be able to support targeting of the United States, according to analysis of special intelligence.- The Director, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, US Air Force, does not agree that Iraq is developing UAVs primarily intended to be delivery platforms for chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents. The small size of Iraq's new UAV strongly suggests a primary role of reconnaissance, although CBW delivery is an inherent capability.
We have low confidence in our ability to assess when Saddam would use WMD.
· Saddam could decide to use chemical and biological warfare (CBW) preemptively against US forces, friends, and allies in the region in an attempt to disrupt US war preparations and undermine the political will of the Coalition.
*[Corrected per Errata sheet issued in October 2002]
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· Saddam might use CBW after an initial advance into Iraqi territory, but early use of WMD could foreclose diplomatic options for stalling the US advance.
· He probably would use CBW when he perceived he irretrievably had lost control of the military and security situation, but we are unlikely to know when Saddam reaches that point.
· We judge that Saddam would be more likely to use chemical weapons than biological weapons on the battlefield.
· Saddam historically has maintained tight control over the use of WMD; however, he probably has provided contingency instructions to his commanders to use CBW in specific circumstances.
Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW against the United States, fearing that exposure of Iraqi involvement would provide Washington a stronger cause for making war.
Iraq probably would attempt clandestine attacks against the US Homeland if Baghdad feared an attack that threatened the survival of the regime were imminent or unavoidable, or possibly for revenge. Such attacks-more likely with biological than chemical agents-probably would be carried out by special forces or intelligence operatives.
· The Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) probably has been directed to conduct clandestine attacks against US and Allied interests in the Middle East in the event the United States takes action against Iraq. The IIS probably would be the primary means by which Iraq would attempt to conduct any CBW attacks on the US Homeland, although we have no specific intelligence information that Saddam's regime has directed attacks against US territory.
Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as al-Qa'ida-with worldwide reach and extensive terrorist infrastructure, and already engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the United States-could perpetrate the type of terrorist attack that he would hope to conduct.
· In such circumstances, he might decide that the extreme step of assisting the Islamist terrorists in conducting a CBW attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him.
The Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR) believes that Saddam continues to want nuclear weapons and that available evidence indicates that Baghdad is pursuing at least a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapon-related capabilities. The activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to
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acquire nuclear weapons. Iraq may be doing so, but INR considers the available evidence inadequate to support such a judgment. Lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program, INR is unwilling to speculate that such an effort began soon after the departure of UN inspectors or to project a timeline for the completion of activities it does not now see happening. As a result, INR is unable to predict when Iraq could acquire a nuclear device or weapon.
In INR's view Iraq's efforts to acquire aluminum tubes is central to the argument that Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, but INR is not persuaded that the tubes in question are intended for use as centrifuge rotors. INR accepts the judgment of technical experts at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) who have concluded that the tubes Iraq seeks to acquire are poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges to be used for uranium enrichment and finds unpersuasive the arguments advanced by others to make the case that they are intended for that purpose. INR considers it far more likely that the tubes are intended for another purpose, most likely the production of artillery rockets. The very large quantities being sought, the way the tubes were tested by the Iraqis, and the atypical lack of attention to operational security in the procurement efforts are among the factors, in addition to the DOE assessment, that lead INR to conclude that the tubes are not intended for use in Iraq's nuclear weapon program.
· Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding, its chemical, biological, nuclear and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.
· We are not detecting portions of these weapons programs.
· Iraq possesses proscribed chemical and biological weapons and missiles.
· Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material.
· Iraq does not yet have a nuclear weapon or sufficient material to make one but is likely to have a weapon by 2007 to 2009. (See INR alternative view, page 84).
· When Saddam would use weapons of mass destruction.
· Whether Saddam would engage in clandestine attacks against the US Homeland.
· Whether in desperation Saddam would share chemical or biological weapons with al-Qa'ida.
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Uranium Acquisition. Iraq retains approximately two-and-a-half tons of 2.5 percent enriched uranium oxide, which the IAEA permits. This low-enriched material could be used as feed material to produce enough HEU for about two nuclear weapons. The use of enriched feed material also would reduce the initial number of centrifuges that Baghdad would need by about half. Iraq could divert this material-the IAEA inspects it only once a year-and enrich it to weapons
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grade before a subsequent inspection discovered it was missing. The IAEA last inspected this material in late January 2002.
Iraq has about 550 metric tons of yellowcake and low-enriched uranium at Tuwaitha, which is inspected annually by the IAEA. Iraq also began vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake; acquiring either would shorten the time Baghdad needs to produce nuclear weapons.
· A foreign government service reported that as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of "pure uranium" (probably yellowcake) to Iraq. As of early 2001, Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake1. We do not know the status of this arrangement.
· Reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We cannot confirm whether Iraq succeeded in acquiring uranium ore and/or yellowcake from these sources. Reports suggest Iraq is shifting from domestic mining and milling of uranium to foreign acquisition. Iraq possesses significant phosphate deposits, from which uranium had been chemically extracted before Operation Desert Storm. Intelligence information on whether nuclear-related phosphate mining and/or processing has been reestablished is inconclusive, however.
1 A refined form of natural uranium.
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Iraq's Attempts to Acquire Aluminum Tubes
[This excerpt from a longer view includes INR's position on the African uranium issue]
Some of the specialized but dual-use items being sought are, by all indications, bound for Iraq's missile program. Other cases are ambiguous, such as that of a planned magnet-production line whose suitability for centrifuge operations remains unknown. Some efforts involve non-controlled industrial material and equipment-including a variety of machine tools-and are troubling because they would help establish the infrastructure for a renewed nuclear program. But such efforts (which began well before the inspectors departed) are not clearly linked to a nuclear end-use. Finally, the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR's assessment, highly dubious.
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