Miss Cleo must be running the Iraq Survey Group these days. Since the ISG, trumpeted ad naseum by the White House as keen to find those elusive Iraqi WMDs, has been unable to find diddly it appears that the group’s mission has changed:
Having failed to find banned weapons in Iraq (news – web sites), the CIA (news – web sites) is preparing a final report on its search that will speculate on what the deposed regime’s capabilities might have looked like years from now if left unchecked, according to congressional and intelligence officials.
The CIA plans for the report, due next month, to project as far as 2008 what Iraq might have achieved in its illegal weapons programs if the United States had not invaded the country last year, the officials said.
The new direction of the inquiry is seen by some officials as an attempt to obscure the fact that no banned weapons — or even evidence of active programs — have been found, and instead emphasize theories that Iraq may have been planning to revive its programs.
Rep. Jane Harman (news, bio, voting record) (D-Venice) protested the decision in a sharply worded letter to acting CIA Director John E. McLaughlin last week. Trying to forecast Iraq’s weapons capabilities four years into the future would be, “by definition, highly speculative” and “inconsistent with the original mission of the Iraq Survey Group,” Harman wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Times.
Such an effort would be a significant departure for a survey group whose primary mission when it was established last year was to locate and destroy stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that the CIA and other agencies believed were hidden across Iraq.
David Kay, who led the group before resigning in January, said that speculating on Iraq’s future capabilities was never part of the team’s mission.
“Absolutely not,” Kay said in a telephone interview Thursday. “We were to search for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. No one ever suggested to me in any of the discussions before I took the job, afterward, or even when I left, that [assessing Iraq’s future capabilities] was a thing that should have been done.”
Kay and others also questioned how such an assessment would be possible given the disarray that characterized President Saddam Hussein (news – web sites)’s government in recent years and external events that had altered the flow of illicit weapons technologies around the world.
“The case made by the Bush White House was that [Iraq] was an imminent threat that must be dealt with today,” said a senior congressional official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Coming out later and saying [Hussein] would have had the weapons in 2006 or 2008 … is basically a way to justify preemption.”