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February 7, 2006
Saddam And WMD: Case Re-Opened?

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence wants to reopen a question on what it calls "postwar" intelligence that both Congress and the administration would prefer to remain closed -- whether Saddam Hussein had WMD in late 2002. Its chair, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, says that mounting evidence and testimony point to Saddam's possession of the banned weapons prior to the final UN debates on the invasion, and that untranslated documentation holds the answer:

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is studying 12 hours of audio recordings between Saddam Hussein and his top advisers that may provide clues to the whereabouts of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The committee has already confirmed through the intelligence community that the recordings of Saddam's voice are authentic, according to its chairman, Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, who would not go into detail about the nature of the conversations or their context. They were provided to his committee by a former federal prosecutor, John Loftus, who says he received them from a former American military intelligence analyst.

Mr. Loftus will make the recordings available to the public on February 17 at the annual meeting of the Intelligence Summit, of which he is president. On the organization's Web site, Mr. Loftus is quoted as promising that the recordings "will be able to provide a few definitive answers to some very important - and controversial - weapons of mass destruction questions." Contacted yesterday by The New York Sun, Mr. Loftus would only say that he delivered a CD of the recordings to a representative of the committee, and the following week the committee announced that it was reopening the investigation into weapons of mass destruction.

The audio recordings are part of new evidence the House intelligence committee is piecing together that has spurred Mr. Hoekstra to reopen the question of whether Iraq had the biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons American inspectors could not turn up. President Bush called off the hunt for those weapons last year and has conceded that America has yet to find evidence of the stockpiles.

Mr. Hoekstra has already met with a former Iraqi air force general, Georges Sada, who claims that Saddam used civilian airplanes to ferry chemical weapons to Syria in 2002. Mr. Hoekstra is now talking to Iraqis who Mr. Sada claims took part in the mission, and the congressman said the former air force general "should not just be discounted." Mr. Hoekstra also said he is in touch with other people who have come forward to the committee - Iraqis and Americans - who claim that the weapons inspectors may have overlooked other key sites and evidence. He has also asked the director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, to declassify some 35,000 boxes of Iraqi documents obtained in the war that have yet to be translated.

Hoekstra has gotten little assistance from the intelligence community. Sada's testimony resulted in little follow-up by intelligence agencies, and the entire question of WMD gets treated like a bad dream in political circles. Yet as Stephen Hayes has repeatedly written in the Weekly Standard, most of the documentation from the Saddam regime on its weapons and defense systems has yet to be translated at all. The entire US government appears to have leapt to a conclusion far ahead of a complete review of the postwar evidence.

We need to support the Hoekstra effort, even if it never finds a WMD. We need to base history's conclusions on the most complete and accurate data we have in our possession. And if we find out that the WMD did exist, we'd better start looking for it -- before it finds us first.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 7, 2006 7:18 AM

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