The CIA’s chief weapons inspector David Kay made an interim reporting recently on the search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. Kay’s inspection team has uncovered “dozens of WMD program activities and significant amounts of equipment” that Iraq had been concealing from United Nations inspections. Inspectors found traces of an Iraqi bio-warfare program and indications of continued interest in the production of chemical weapons as late as 2003.
Inspectors made several dramatic discoveries about Iraq’s efforts to build ballistic missiles. Saddam Hussein was clearly intent on developing missiles with ranges that violated the limitations imposed on Iraq’s program after the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq’s missile program has also been benefiting from foreign assistance. North Korea is named as one foreign supplier, but there are references to other foreign countries and “entities” helping the Iraqis.
Kay’s report shows that Saddam Hussein never lost interest in obtaining nuclear weapons and that he sought to restart the program in 2000. A cadre of nuclear scientists had been kept together and Iraq may have been “reconstituting” a uranium enrichment program. But Kay was brutally honest on one point: his team has yet to uncover evidence that Iraq took “significant post-1998 steps” to build a nuclear warhead or produce fissile material.
And he openly acknowledged that his team hasn’t found “stockpiles” of WMD weapons. It is still too early to “say definitively” that such stockpiles do not exist or that weapons might have been moved elsewhere. And his report details the challenges facing his team, including indications that Iraqi scientists have been trying to cover their tracks by destroying key evidence. Regarding chemical weapons, for example, inspectors have barely scratched the surface in the search for stockpiled chemical munitions. Kay said that 120 sites, many more than 50 square miles in size, remain to be searched.
But as Kay said on Fox News Sunday, little of this has made it into the press. The headlines focused on Kay’s preliminary finding that no weapons have yet been uncovered. The New York Times said Kay’s report revealed that Iraq’s WMD program “barely existed and posed no immediate threat to the international community.” For the Wall Street Journal, Kay’s failure to find weapons stockpiles “could pose serious political problems” for the Bush administration. The Washington Post concluded that Kay’s report “strongly suggests” that the administration’s case for war was wrong.
The media also played up comments by Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who chairs the Senate intelligence committee. Roberts told reporters that he was “not pleased” by what he had heard after Kay’s closed-door testimony. But Kay told Fox News’ Tony Snow that the most important word in his report was “yet” and that it is “far too early to reach any definitive conclusions.” He told Snow that one scientist interviewed by his team was murdered after he was interviewed. That would seem to indicate that Kay’s team still has much to do before a final judgment can be made on Iraq’s WMD programs.