Media's Focus After Interim Report Surprises Top Arms Inspector
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2003 The man leading the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq expressed surprise here today that media reports focused mainly on what his team has yet to find and not on what it has turned up so far after his Oct. 2 interim report to Congress.
David Kay, chief U.S. arms inspector, told host Tony Snow on the "Fox News Sunday" that while his team indeed has yet to find illicit weapons, "I'm sort of amazed that what was powerful information about both (the former Iraqi regime's) intent and their actual activities that were not known and were hidden from (United Nations) inspectors seems not to have made it to the press.
"This is information (that), if it had been available last year, would have been headline news," Kay noted.
He said the inspection team has found, and is still finding, more than two dozen hidden laboratories belonging to the Iraqi intelligence service, Mukhabarat, that weren't declared to the United Nations, had prohibited equipment and carried on activities that should have been declared.
"At the minimum," Kay continued, "they kept alive Iraq's capability to produce both biological and chemical weapons. We found assassination tools. So we know that, in fact, they had a prohibited intent to them."
Kay told Snow of an Iraqi scientist who, in 1983, hid active strains of botulina toxin, one of the most toxic elements known, in his refrigerator, and was also asked to hide anthrax, which he deemed "too dangerous" and turned back after a few days because he had 12 children in his house.
"We now have three cases in which scientists have come forward with equipment, technology, diagrams, documents, and in this case actual weapons material that they were told to hide and that the U.N. didn't find," Kay said. He added the inspection team actively is searching for at least one more cache of strains known to exist.
Kay said he's most surprised at the lack of media attention to his report's findings on evidence of Iraqi research on four new biological-capable agents, research he said should have been reported to the United Nations, but was not.
"This continued right up to 2003 in these four cases unreported, undiscovered," Kay said.
The chief weapons inspector said Iraq's missile program is most significant among the "dozens of cases" of capabilities Iraq hid from U.N. inspectors.
"We're talking about activity on four different fronts that would have provided missiles capable of exceeding the U.N. limit of 150 kilometers," he said.
Kay, who told reporters Oct. 2 that he expects his team's work to yield more findings for at least another six to nine months, said his team has identified 130 ammunition storage points "of significant size" in its three months of work so far, some larger than 50 square kilometers. He said the sites contained an estimated 600,000 to 650,000 tons of arms about one-third the ammunition stockpile of the much larger U.S. military.
Along with temperatures ranging from 130 to 150 degrees and the size and number of sites requiring methodical inspection, the weapons storage practices of Saddam's regime make his team's work difficult, Kay said.
"The Iraqis have told us, and we learned in 1991, that they had the habit of storing their chemical munitions right in a mix with the standard conventional armaments," Kay said. "And they also tended not to mark them, so you really have to examine each one."
Kay said "yet" is the operative word in his team's search results so far to find actual chemical weapons. "We have Iraqi generals telling us that they had them," he said. "Unfortunately, they're not able to tell us where they are now, and that's why we're looking so hard."
Evidence the team has gathered so far indicates Iraq's nuclear weapons program was at a very early stage, Kay said, but he emphasized the team has not finished its examination of that area.
Kay said the head of Saddam's arms industry has told the inspection team that he believes the dictator, weary of U.N. restrictions in 2000, was ready to restart the nuclear program. "The one piece of evidence that confirms that is in the missile area," he said, which restarted that year.
Calling Iraq's rocket propellant program one he's "surprised no one has picked up on," Kay said Iraqis are telling the team they continued to be capable of mixing and preparing scud missile fuel as late as 2001 or 2002.
"Scud missile fuel is only useful in scud missiles no other class of missiles that Iraq has," Kay said. "And yet, Iraq declared that it got rid of all its scud missiles in the early 1990s. Why would you continue to produce scud missile fuel if you didn't have scuds?"
The inspection team has reports of convoys moving from Iraq into Syria in the weeks before the war, Kay said, and has specific evidence on dates, times and routes. "The difficulty we have," he said, "is proving what was in the convoys."
Kay said the team continues to study illegal and dual-use technology trade with Iraq. "The equipment that we're after and the information we have relates to things that were clearly illegal to sell to Iraq," he said. "This is illegal procurement; it's not something that could have other uses. They shouldn't have had it."
The idea of turning the weapons search back over to the United Nations "just doesn't hold any credibility," Kay said. He pointed out the international body has pulled "essentially all of its staff" out of Iraq because of two explosions. Citing four attacks on inspection teams in September that injured four people seriously, he said he and every member of his team on the ground in Iraq are weapons-qualified and routinely carry weapons.
"We operate in a very nonpermissive environment. That's not what the U.N. does," he said. "As a U.N. inspector, I never carried a weapon, and we never operated in this type of environment."