Correcting the Record

From Holden:

The scary lies.

The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons.

We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas.

And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons.

Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.

After eleven years during which we have tried containment, sanctions, inspections, even selected military action, the end result is that Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more.

More than two years later, a correction.

In a formal acknowledgment of the obvious, the CIA has issued a classified report revising its prewar assessments on Iraq and concluding that Baghdad abandoned its chemical weapons programs in 1991, according to intelligence officials familiar with the document.

The report marks the first time the CIA officially has disavowed its prewar judgments, and is one in a “series” of updated assessments the agency is producing as part of a belated effort to correct its record on Iraq’s alleged weapons programs, officials said.

For an agency that prides itself on providing the latest intelligence to policymakers, even the title of the new report reads like a year-old headline: “Iraq: No Large-Scale Chemical Warfare Efforts Since Early 1990s.” But the CIA’s decision to distribute the document in classified channels underscores the awkwardness the agency faces as it continues to reconcile its prewar reporting to postwar realities in Iraq. Before the war, the CIA asserted that Iraq stockpiled biological weapons and that it was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.


It’s stunning that they would actually put on paper a reversal,” said one intelligence official of previous intelligence estimates. The official had not reviewed the document.

Richard Kerr, a former senior CIA official who was hired by the agency to conduct an internal review of its analytic tradecraft last year, said he couldn’t recall the agency ever issuing such a revisionist report on any subject.

“But the situation is rather unique,” Kerr said, noting that the postwar reality in Iraq has made the agency’s failings painfully obvious. “Ordinarily, you’re never proven wrong in a clean, neat way.”


U.S. intelligence officials have long acknowledged that the prewar assessments were flawed. David Kay, the former head of the search team, famously told Congress last January, “We were almost all wrong.”

But other officials’ statements have been more qualified. In a speech last February, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet said that, “When the facts of Iraq are all in, we will neither be completely right nor completely wrong.”


The report notes that its new conclusions “vary significantly” from prewar judgments “largely because of subsequent events and direct access to Iraqi officials, scientists, facilities and documents.” A note in the report describes it as the second in a “retrospective series that addresses our post Operation Iraqi Freedom understanding of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and delivery system programs.”

A Jan. 4 report focused on scud missiles and other delivery systems. Intelligence officials said future reports will revise the agency’s prewar claims. Those allegations were a centerpiece of the Bush administration’s case for war with Iraq.