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Thursday, July 31, 2003
Pincus at the Bat

Walter Pincus continues to do a fine job at the Post tracking down these stories:

Scientists Still Deny Iraqi Arms Programs (washingtonpost.com): "Despite vigorous efforts, the U.S. government has been unsuccessful so far in finding key senior Iraqi scientists to support its prewar claims that former president Saddam Hussein was pursuing an aggressive program to develop nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, according to senior administration officials and members of Congress who have been briefed recently on the subject."
After describing the circumstances of questioning of a number of key Iraqis, the story continues:
...all of the scientists interviewed have denied that Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program or developed and hidden chemical or biological weapons since United Nations inspectors left in 1998. Several key Iraqi officials questioned the significance of evidence cited by the Bush administration to suggest that Hussein was stepping up efforts to develop new weapons of mass destruction programs.
But what about the centrifuge in the rose bed?
The White House, for instance, has cited the case of nuclear scientist Mahdi Obeidi, who recently dug up plans and components for a gas centrifuge that he said he buried in 1991 at the end of the Persian Gulf War. The White House has pointed to the discovery as a sign of Hussein's continuing nuclear ambitions, but Obeidi told his interrogators that Iraq's nuclear program was dormant in the years before war began in March.
The sources said Obeidi also disputed evidence cited by the administration -- namely Iraq's purchase of aluminum tubes that various officials said were for a new centrifuge program to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs. Obeidi said the tubes were for rockets, as Iraq had said before the war.
Isn't it odd how the news about him and the aluminum tubes has been, well, not news?
Administration officials said they expect [David] Kay[, a CIA representative in Iraq to coordinate the WMD search] to tell the senators there have been no breakthroughs but that progress is being made in understanding Hussein's weapons programs and research that could be associated with them. The United States is still interviewing lower-level Iraqi security and intelligence officials associated with the programs, but the searching of alleged weapons sites has all but halted, officials said.
Bush indicated yesterday that he still expects evidence of weapons of mass destruction to surface in Iraq. He said Kay described a complex process that includes the need to "analyze the mounds of evidence, literally the miles of documents that we have uncovered."
That's odd. I distinctly recall Rumsfeld saying before the war that we knew just where the WMD were. And didn't Colin Powell claim a very high level of knowledge of such things at the UN?
As described by government officials and their families, the United States has used aggressive tactics to find and question key Iraqi scientists. Amir Saadi, Iraq's 65-year-old chief liaison with United Nations weapons inspectors since last year, has been held incommunicado since his voluntary surrender in Baghdad to U.S. military police more than three months ago, according to his wife, Helma. (Emphasis mine)
Incommunicado. Quite possibly in solitary confinement, as the one communication he sent home via the Red Cross said "Today the Red Cross visited me and I was happy just to talk to someone. I am in good health and being treated correctly . . . love and kisses, Amer."
After hiring a lawyer, Helma Saadi sent a written request to L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for Iraq. She did not receive an answer from Bremer to that letter or to one sent more recently. She did receive a response to a letter she sent asking whether her husband could be represented by a lawyer. On June 27, Col. Marc L. Warren of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, assigned to Bremer's office, said her husband's status "is being investigated" under the Geneva Conventions to see whether he is entitled to prisoner of war status or some other category.
This is likely to run into some interesting legal territory involving determining when the war is over (if he's a POW, he's supposed to be repatriated when the war is over). The Geneva Convention may also have something to say about taking someone away from his family and holding him incommunicado for months.
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