Over the past year or so, I have provided CQ readers with a number of translations from key Iraqi Intelligence Service documents that have been translated by either the FMSO or by Joseph Shahda of the Free Republic website. I even engaged two interpreters to verify one particularly explosive memo last April, after Shahda published his own translation. That memo dealt with IIS plans to get volunteers for suicide missions to ‘strike American interests”.
One particular criticism that appeared with each new translation was that the documents were never proven genuine, although no one could explain the logic behind the US government hiding these documents in Iraqi Arabic among an avalanche of mundanity, only to shove it onto a shelf for years until Congress authorized their release to the Internet. Now we find another verification of their authenticity, this time from the New York Times, which reports today that the documents constitute a national-security threat:
Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.
But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.
Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended “pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.”
Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, fearing that the information could help states like Iran develop nuclear arms, had privately protested last week to the American ambassador to the agency, according to European diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. One diplomat said the agency’s technical experts “were shocked” at the public disclosures.
The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.
This is apparently the Times’ November surprise, but it’s a surprising one indeed. The Times has just authenticated the entire collection of memos, some of which give very detailed accounts of Iraqi ties to terrorist organizations. Just this past Monday, I posted a memo which showed that the Saddam regime actively coordinated with Palestinian terrorists in the PFLP as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. On September 20th, I reposted a translation of an IIS memo written four days after 9/11 that worried the US would discover Iraq’s ties to Osama bin Laden.
It doesn’t end there with the Times, either. In a revelation buried far beneath the jump, the Times acknowledges that the UN also believed Saddam to be nearing development of nuclear weapons:
Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990’s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.
European diplomats said this week that some of those nuclear documents on the Web site were identical to the ones presented to the United Nations Security Council in late 2002, as America got ready to invade Iraq. But unlike those on the Web site, the papers given to the Security Council had been extensively edited, to remove sensitive information on unconventional arms.
That appears to indicate that by invading in 2003, we followed the best intelligence of the UN inspectors to head off the development of an Iraqi nuke. This intelligence put Saddam far ahead of Iran in the nuclear pursuit, and made it much more urgent to take some definitive action against Saddam before he could build and deploy it. And bear in mind that this intelligence came from the UN, and not from the United States. The inspectors themselves developed it, and they meant to keep it secret. The FMSO site blew their cover, and they’re very unhappy about it.
What other highlights has the Times now authenticated? We have plenty:
* 2001 IIS memo directing its agents to test mass grave sites in southern Iraq for radiation, and to use “trusted news agencies” to leak rumors about the lack of credibility of Coalition reporting on the subject. They specify CNN.
* The Blessed July operation, in which Saddam’s sons planned a series of assassinations in London, Iran, and southern Iraq
* Saddam’s early contacts with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda from 1994-7
* UNMOVIC knew of a renewed effort to make ricin from castor beans in 2002, but never reported it
* The continued development of delivery mechanisms for biological and chemical weapons by the notorious “Dr. Germ” in 2002
Actually, we have much, much more. All of these documents underscore the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and show that his regime continued their work on banned weapons programs. We have made this case over and over again, but some people refused to believe the documents were genuine. Now we have no less of an authority than the New York Times to verify that the IIS documentation is not only genuine, but presents a powerful argument for the military action to remove Saddam from power.
The Times wanted readers to cluck their tongues at the Bush administration for releasing the documents, although Congress actually did that. However, the net result should be a complete re-evaluation of the threat Saddam posed by critics of the war. Let’s see if the Times figures this out for themselves.
UPDATE: More at Stop the ACLU and QandO. And Michelle Malkin has a great take on this — the paper that blew a series of highly classified national-security programs wants to point fingers about the status of these documents?
UPDATE II: Bump to top. And The Anchoress has dreamed up a hilarious dialogue at the NYT — don’t miss it.
UPDATE III: Yes, I understand the difference between 1991 and 2002. What the critics of this post seem to miss is this:
1. Saddam still had all of the relevant documentation to restart his nuclear program, so the UNSCOM and UNMOVIC teams obviously did not “destroy all vestiges” of Iraq’s nuclear program. After all, the documentation is what the Times proclaimed as a dangerous breach that would allow Iran to build a bomb.
2. If the FMSO documents on the website are dangerous to publish because they might assist Iran in designing a nuclear weapon, then obviously they were dangerous sitting in Saddam’s files. Missing that particular point seems willfully dense at best.
3. Saddam had unexpurgated copies of the IAEA report in his files — the ones that the UN inspectors are so unhappy about being hosted at the FMSO site. I wonder how that happened?
4. Since the rest of the FMSO documents came from the same locations as the ones that the NYT proclaims as authentic and dangerous, that means that the rest of these documents are authentic as well. That’s the primary point of this post — because when one looks through the documents, it becomes clear that Saddam had many connections to terrorism, and had active WMD programs right through 2002.