Saturday, September 09, 2006


Friday's report from the Senate's Select Intelligence Committee on Iraq, al Qaeda and assessments of collaboration and production of WMDs has already been much discussed in the news.

But one section of it deals indirectly with materials presented by Colin Powell during his presentation to the UN Security Council.

In that presentation, Powell connected al Zarqawi in the north of Iraq to a "UK poison cell" alleged to have been making ricin for attacks in Britain. Eventually, the verdicts and evidence from the trial in April of 2005, reported first at GlobalSecurity.Org here, destroyed the entire argument.

The Senate's report adds some cement to what was already known, most importantly reiterating that a source of information in the Powell presentation of the Bush administration's claims, was tortured into a confession. A confession he later recanted and which the Senate report accepts as valueless.

This information was presented by Powell and the Bush administration as a linkage between al Qaeda in Iraq, the Hussein regime and export of a terrorism plot to England.

The sources name was Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, portrayed as the alleged "Detained al Qa'ida Operative" in one of Powell's UN slides, pictured below.

The "UK poison cell" did not exist. Only a loner, Kamel Bourgass, had a handful of castor seeds and a raft of silly recipes for poison-making, copied into handwritten notes from information sequestered on American computer servers.

The first section of the Senate's report doesn't get into this but it does extensively address al-Libi's "confession," one that purported to yield provocative information on al Qaeda's training/development of chemical and biologicial weapons in Iraq.

All of this was trash, indicates the report. al-Liby made it up, first after being told by Americans that he would be handed over to a foreign country where they could torture him, and later in the foreign country where, in fact, he was tortured. In fact, he made up that he was an agent of al Qaeda.

The nut of it is in the pages below:

It is damning material and a national disgrace, among many others. The pages make it perfectly clear that a "confession" extracted under torture, torture al-Liby's US captors knew he was going to face, was used as evidence to make an argument for going to war in Iraq.

Other materials from the report address what was and is known about al Zarqawi and his alleged production of chemical and biological poisons -- ricin featuring prominently in the "lore" about his camp in Sargat, northern Iraq.

Testimony and physical evidence remains very thin -- not at all up to the legend surrounding the man. It in no way supports the breathless claims on ricin production made by an NBC Pentagon correspondent in 2004, as fed to the reporter by an associate of Richard Clarke.

It was only after the war that a Defense Intelligence Agency inspection team discovered only evidence of "cyanide salts" at Sargat. This "seems to confirm suspicions of work on cyanide . . . " reads the report.

In terms of production of chemical weapons, the recovery or discovery of such is not particularly remarkable and reveals no special capability or training. And in light of how things have gone in Iraq during the intervening years -- no chemical attacks, but no shortage of daily bombings -- it is even less notable.


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