A major in the Iraqi intelligence service, who was a source for a pre-war US intelligence claim that Iraq had mobile biological weapons labs, was introduced to the Defense Intelligence Agency by the Iraqi National Congress, US officials said on Tuesday.
The connection in 2002 was made at the request of a civilian Pentagon official in what was called an "executive referral." But government sources would not identify the defense official other than to say he was neither Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld nor his deputy Paul Wolfowitz.
Pentagon civilian officials were far more welcoming of the INC and its leader Ahmad Chalabi, who were pushing for an end to Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq, than the CIA or State Department, intelligence experts say.
The Iraqi major - believed to be Wafiq al-Samarai - told the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2002 that Baghdad had mobile laboratories for conducting research on biological weapons, a claim that ended up in intelligence assessments of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities.
Ahmed Chalabi(R) provided
much of US's WMD information
The Defense Intelligence Agency, which interviewed the Iraqi major outside the United States and Iraq, at first found his information to be credible and the major passed an initial polygraph.
Failed lie test
But in further discussions it became clear he was stretching some of the information.
"He oversold himself in who he knew and what he knew on a variety of things," a US official said on condition of anonymity.
So the Defense Intelligence Agency put out a "fabrication notice" in May 2002 for intelligence agencies advising them to consider any information from that source as suspect. But intelligence analysts ignored the notice and the information from the Iraqi major on the existence of biological weapons labs was included in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a key pre-war report that assessed Iraq's banned weapons capabilities.
US intelligence agencies are reviewing a wide range of information, including other material and sources provided by the Iraqi National Congress before the war, and more discrepancies are likely to turn up.
"I must tell you that we are finding discrepancies in some claims made by human sources about mobile biological weapons production before the war," CIA Director George Tenet said in a 5 February speech.
Powell holds up a vial described
as containing anthrax
"Because we lack direct access to the most important sources on this question, we have as yet been unable to resolve the differences," he said. Tenet was referring to sources other than the Iraqi major in that comment, a US official said.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell mentioned the alleged Iraq's mobile systems in his UN presentation regarding Iraq's WMD on 5 February 2003.
On the same day of Powell's presentation, senior Iraqi officials at al-Kindi Research, Testing, Development, and Engineering facility in Mosul, Iraq, commented to the UK's Observer newspaper on pictures Powell alleged to be of Iraqi mobile laboratories saying "those vans are used to produce hydrogen chemically for artillery weather balloons".
"Artillery balloons are essentially balloons that are sent up into the atmosphere and relay information on wind direction and speed, allowing more accurate artillery fire. Crucially, these systems need to be mobile.", they said to the Observer.
The Observer report said not only did the Iraqi military have such a system at one time, but that it was actually sold to them by the British. In 1987, Marconi, now known as AMS, sold the Iraqi army an Artillery Meteorological System (Amets).