US told early on that Iraq had no WMDs - report
US told early on that Iraq had no WMDs - report
Tue Apr 6, 2004 21:12

US told early on that Iraq had no WMDs - report

LOS ANGELES, Apr 6 (Reuters) Weapons inspector David Kay warned the CIA last July that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but it took months before the US Congress and the American people were told, according to a special report in the May issue of Vanity Fair Magazine.

Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction was the main reason cited by President George W Bush when he launched a war against President Saddam Hussein four months earlier.

Kay told Vanity Fair that in July, less than a month after he arrived in Iraq at the behest of the CIA, he was sending e-mail to the intelligence agency's director George Tenet that ''it looks as though they did not produce weapons.'' He also said he was ready to quit his job in December but was urged to stay on because it would look bad if he left early. He quit about a month later.

The former weapons hunter's comments appear in a 22,000-word report, ''The Path to War,'' written and reported over the last four months in what the magazine said was the longest piece of reporting it has ever published. The issue goes on sale this week.

Kay said that after he concluded that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq he received a phone call in Baghdad from CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, who told him: ''We have to be very careful how we handle this.'' The magazine said that as a result it was months before Congress and the public learned the truth.

Last October after briefing Congress, Kay told reporters, ''We have not found at this point actual weapons. It does not mean we've concluded there are no actual weapons. It means at this point in time, and it's a huge country with a lot to do, that we have not yet found weapons.'' Kay, at that point, said his team would have a better handle on the status of Iraq's banned weapons in six to nine months. But Vanity Fair said Kay was ready to quit by December and that Tenet pleaded with him not to do so.

Kay said Tenet told him, ''If you resign now it will appear like we don't know what we're doing and the wheels are coming off.'' Kay resigned on January. 23.

A CIA spokesman had no immediate comment on the Vanity Fair article.

The magazine also reported that Vice-President Dick Cheney visited the CIA about 10 times prior to the war to argue his views, according to a member of his staff.

Former deputy CIA director Richard Kerr, who was brought in by the agency to conduct a classified internal review of the pre-war intelligence on Iraq, told Vanity Fair that agency analysts were subject to pressure by the White House, Cheney's office and other senior officials.

Kerr said that this was not because ''they were being asked to change their judgments, but they were being asked again and again to restate their judgments -- do another paper on this, repetitive pressures. Do it again.'' He added, ''I assume policy makers are trying to make the strongest arguments that they possibly can. You don't go to the public to support your policy position by saying, 'Gee, we are uncertain about this. You're trying to get people to support this programme.'' In a February speech at Georgetown University, CIA Director Tenet said: ''No one told us what to say or how to say it.''


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