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zimv20
Aug 13, 2003, 01:00 AM
http://www.msnbc.com/news/950224.asp?0dm=s20Nk

Is Iraqi Intel Still Being Manipulated?

The sad and secretive tale of an Iraqi scientist

By Michael Hirsh
NEWSWEEK WEB EXCLUSIVE

Aug. 8 — His story seemed, in the beginning, a godsend for the Bush administration. In early June, Iraqi nuclear scientist Mahdi Obeidi revealed to CIA investigators that in 1991, just after the Persian Gulf War, he had gone into his backyard to bury gas-centrifuge equipment used to enrich uranium.

IT APPEARED TO be hard evidence backing up what the Bush team had maintained all along: that Saddam Hussein had a secret nuclear-weapons program and had hidden it so well that United Nations inspectors never would have found it on their own. This, after all, was one of the justifications for the war that began in March, and evidence for Vice President Dick Cheney’s charge that the Iraqis were “reconstituting a nuclear program.” Obeidi also turned over to the CIA 180 documents on Iraq’s enrichment program, as well as about 200 blueprints for centrifuges.
_ _ _ _ Suddenly the Bush administration seemed about to reap one of the windfalls it had long anticipated from the ouster of Saddam. Newly enfranchised Iraqi scientists now felt free to speak the truth. Obeidi himself, when he was interviewed by U.N. inspectors back in the mid-’90s, had lied outright, denying that he had anything to do with the gas-centrifuge program, though in fact he was in charge of it as director-general in Iraq’s Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization. In late June, when Obeidi’s tale of the furtive burial beneath his backyard rosebush broke on CNN, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said “we’re hopeful that this example will lead to other Iraqi scientists stepping forward to provide information.” Among those who led the way in playing up the new revelation was David Kay, the former U.N. inspector who is today heading the Bush administration’s probe into Iraq’s WMD program. “There’s no way that that would have been discovered by normal international inspections,” said Kay, then on his second day on the job as special adviser to the CIA after spending much of the Iraq war as a hawkish TV pundit.
_ _ _ _ But for the Bush administration, things quickly began to go wrong with the Obeidi story. True, Obeidi said he’d buried the centrifuge equipment, as he’d been ordered to do in 1991 by Saddam’s son Qusay Hussein and son-in-law Hussein Kamel. But he also insisted to the CIA that, in effect, that was that: Saddam had never reconstituted his centrifuge program afterward, in large part because of the Iraqi tyrant’s fear of being discovered under the U.N. sanctions-and-inspections regime. If true, this was a terribly inconvenient fact for the Bush administration, after months in which Secretary of State Colin Powell and other senior officials had alleged that aluminum tubes imported from 11 countries were intended for just such a centrifuge program. Obeidi denied that and added that he would have known about any attempts to restart the program. He also told the CIA that, as the International Atomic Energy Agency and many technical experts have said, the aluminum tubes were intended for rockets, not uranium enrichment or a nuclear-weapons program. And he stuck by his story, despite persistent questioning by CIA investigators who still believed he was not telling the full truth.
_ _ _ _ Soon, not only was Obeidi no longer a marquee name for the Bush team, he was incommunicado. Whisked off to a safe house in Kuwait, with no access to phones or the Internet, he waited in vain for what he thought had been offered to him: asylum in the United States and green cards granting permanent residency to him and his eight-member family. Former U.N. inspector David Albright, who got to know Obeidi in the mid-’90s in Iraq and acted as middleman in putting him in touch with the CIA in mid-May after Operation Iraqi Freedom, spoke with him on June 29. Albright says Obeidi told him then that he thought his asylum would be granted by early July and was “in the final stages.” But another month passed. As recently as Aug. 5, the last time Albright spoke to him, Obeidi did not know when he would be allowed to leave for the United States, Albright said.
_ _ _ _ Asked about the Obeidi case, CIA spokesman William Harlow said Friday, “We don’t issue green cards … We never said he was coming here. We never made a promise.” (In fact, the agency does on occasion arrange asylum for useful informants). Later, Harlow called back to say that Obeidi was not “cooling his heels” in Kuwait any longer and that “we’re not unhappy with him.” But Harlow would not say where Obeidi had been sent or whether he had been granted asylum in the United States. “We just don’t discuss asylum cases,” Harlow said.
_ _ _ _ Albright and others suggest that, with the Obeidi case, the message being sent by the Bush administration to Iraqi scientists being interrogated in Iraq is a troublesome one: if you don’t tell us what we want to hear, you won’t be rewarded. In fact, things might even get a little unpleasant for you. As Albright points out, provisional green cards can be arranged very quickly; among those so favored, for example, was the Iraqi man who tipped off the U.S. military to the whereabouts of Pfc. Jessica Lynch. “I think they’re just keeping him under wraps,” said Albright.
_ _ _ _ The treatment of Obeidi has in turn raised questions about whether even fresh intelligence from Iraq is being manipulated in advance of the report being prepared by David Kay, which is intended as the definitive account of Iraq’s WMD program. One Capitol Hill legislator told NEWSWEEK that the administration’s plan is to put out a vast compilation of data about Saddam’s decades-long effort to build weapons of mass destruction and “hope the issue will go away.” And several Democrats say they are disturbed by what Sen. Dianne Feinstein told NEWSWEEK was the “very vague and nonprecise” nature of Kay’s testimony when he appeared at closed sessions of two congressional committees last week. “Signs of a weapons program are very different than the stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons that were a certainty before the war,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “We did not go to war to disrupt Saddam’s weapons program, we went to disarm him.” President Bush himself in late July said Kay would require a long time to analyze “literally the miles of documents that we have uncovered.”
_ _ _ _ While suggesting that more surprises are to come, especially on biological weapons, Kay also indicated last week that the most “amazing” evidence he was uncovering involved not caches of weapons, but new details of efforts by the Iraqis at deceiving U.N. inspectors. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker, asked Friday about the allegations that the forthcoming Kay report might amount to less than the full story, said that Kay “has been very clear that he’s doing a very thorough and methodical look at all of this.”

mactastic
Aug 13, 2003, 10:12 AM
Thanks for the article, I was wondering what happened to Obeidi.

Desertrat
Aug 13, 2003, 02:36 PM
You'd think that by now the various high bureaucrats and politicos would have figured out that when you try to stretch facts to fit preconceived notions, and then trot out a batch of erroneous conclusions as being "truth", somebody's gonna rat you out.

Presidential Advisor Sherman Adams accepted the gift of an expensive vicuna coat. Ike found out and Adams's desk was empty before sundown. Bush would be well advised to act in a like manner when he learns who's responsible for this nonsense.

'Rat

IJ Reilly
Aug 13, 2003, 04:31 PM
Originally posted by Desertrat
You'd think that by now the various high bureaucrats and politicos would have figured out that when you try to stretch facts to fit preconceived notions, and then trot out a batch of erroneous conclusions as being "truth", somebody's gonna rat you out.

Presidential Advisor Sherman Adams accepted the gift of an expensive vicuna coat. Ike found out and Adams's desk was empty before sundown. Bush would be well advised to act in a like manner when he learns who's responsible for this nonsense.

You are making the most generous assumption that these machinations aren't approved at the highest levels.

In any other administration, at any other time, this would be at least a small scandal. Some sort of explanation would be demanded. No, nobody will question this vicuna coat.

Desertrat
Aug 13, 2003, 07:28 PM
Well, I really doubt Bush or Blair would sign off on this sort of thing. As regards Bush, an advisor like Rove would veto it in a heartbeat--he's way too savvy, politically. And I'd imagine Bush would discuss this sort of thing with him, looking for any downside. Bush, himself, is not inherently a sly person.

It seems to me to be more likely that it's people in the higher echelons of the CIA, for instance; close to but below the Director. I could believe that Rumsfeld or somebody at that general level could sign off...

I've watched politics a long time. I focus less on a candidate than on the probable aides and appointees he'll bring with him. Those people can make or break a governor or president. In Jimmy Carter's case, for instance, Bert Lance's notions about economics exacerbated an already bad inflationary situation. And whoever advised him vis-a-vis the embassy takeover in Iran really flubbed.

'Rat

IJ Reilly
Aug 13, 2003, 09:40 PM
What's the difference? Aren't the occupants of White House ultimately responsible for how these policies are carried out? If they aren't, then please tell me -- when did that change?

Sayhey
Aug 14, 2003, 01:04 AM
Originally posted by IJ Reilly
What's the difference? Aren't the occupants of White House ultimately responsible for how these policies are carried out? If they aren't, then please tell me -- when did that change?

Yes, the President is still responsible last I looked. Problem is we can't fire him until next year. In the meantime I think 'Rat's idea of firing some of these advisors is a good one. Start with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and we can get to a few others later.

IJ, like the Isherwood quote, but I'm 0 for 3 so I guess that explains a lot.

Desertrat
Aug 14, 2003, 07:30 AM
Sure, Bush (or any President) is ultimately responsible. What we don't need is a yawp like "I am responsible." and then nothing thereafter, like Janet Reno and Waco.

Bush should say, (IMO) "Here's what we found out. They are gone. I'll see to it that this sort of thing doesn't happen again." After that, it's up to the voters.

'Rat

zimv20
Aug 14, 2003, 09:07 AM
Originally posted by Desertrat
Sure, Bush (or any President) is ultimately responsible.

he's had plenty of opportunities to demand that heads roll (or resignations at least), but hasn't seemed to follow up on any.

if he was serious about leading, he'd demand to know who outed joe wilson's wife's CIA status. ANY previous president would have.

mactastic
Aug 14, 2003, 09:33 AM
Originally posted by Desertrat
Sure, Bush (or any President) is ultimately responsible. What we don't need is a yawp like "I am responsible." and then nothing thereafter, like Janet Reno and Waco.

'Rat

Don't forget a yawp (whatever that is) like "I take responsibility for those 16 words" either. Haven't heard any heads rolling down Pennsylvania Ave over that one yet.

Desertrat
Aug 14, 2003, 04:51 PM
:D Maybe he's relying on precedents of Presidents in the whole responsibility thing.

I've noticed you just don't see much "falling on swords", these days.

'Rat