Accuracy in Media

Former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay was trying to make news recently by alleging that President George Bush was “selective” about the facts he used to justify the invasion of Iraq. In an interview with the UK daily, The Guardian, Kay urged the President to “come clean” and admit that he was wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Kay says he worries that the American public is getting the impression that Bush misled them before the war.

But perhaps it is Kay’s credibility that might be in question. The media have equated Kay’s January resignation with the end of the WMD search in Iraq. But last October, Kay said that at least another six to nine months would be required before any final judgments could be made. CIA Director George Tenet and others have said that the search is far from over. We have previously reported that at least one former UN weapons inspector, retired Army Colonel Richard Spertzel, thinks that the search teams lacked sufficient relevant experience, especially on biological weapons.

Douglas Hanson, another WMD expert with on-the-ground experience in Iraq, has now come forward to challenge Kay. He characterized Kay’s judgment that there were no large WMD stockpiles in Iraq to be “a pretty bold assertion considering that actual surveys of sites we were familiar with were haphazard and uncoordinated.” In fact, Hanson charges that the overall search for Iraqi WMD has been “unfocused and uncoordinated.” He thinks, contrary to Kay’s conclusion, that the “case is still open.”

For example, on chemical weapons he reminds us that last October, Kay said that his teams had yet to search 120 of 130 potential storage sites. Beyond these, he reports that “neighborhood” arms caches are turning up all over Iraq and that chemical or biological weapons may have been dispersed to such caches in Baghdad or elsewhere in the country. More ominously, he warns that the weapons may have been moved out of Iraq altogether.

He says that the search teams have failed to use intelligence to effectively focus the search. Kay preferred to interrogate Iraqi scientists?any scientist. He thinks many of these scientists have powerful incentives to lie to or mislead coalition interrogators. And search teams have often failed to follow up on those leads that do emerge from the interrogations. He says that there was little or no coordination between the search teams and the military, especially units covering areas with suspected WMD sites. The media have eagerly reported that many Iraqi scientists bamboozled Saddam Hussein, but he thinks that’s preposterous.

Hanson’s assessment may be found at The American Thinker, a website devoted to national security topics. He has long experience with WMD matters, both in the military and as a civilian. In mid-2003, he went to Baghdad to be the Chief of Staff for the Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology, which provided him a “unique vantage point” to observe the operations of the WMD search teams. He was not impressed by what he witnessed. Not surprisingly, the media have ignored his invaluable insights.

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