Saturday :: Jun 7, 2003

Even Judith Miller Begins The Walk Backward on WMDs

by Steve

Things on the Iraq WMD Lies story get even more interesting this morning when even Judith Miller begins walking away from her previous whoring for the administration. After being exposed as a tool for the military from her embedment (an apt choice of words for the work that Miller did on WMDs for Rummy), in today’s piece in the NYT Miller casts doubt on Bush’s recent statement that the trailers crowed about by Bush really amount to anything.

American and British intelligence analysts with direct access to the evidence are disputing claims that the mysterious trailers found in Iraq were for making deadly germs. In interviews over the last week, they said the mobile units were more likely intended for other purposes and charged that the evaluation process had been damaged by a rush to judgment.

"Everyone has wanted to find the 'smoking gun' so much that they may have wanted to have reached this conclusion," said one intelligence expert who has seen the trailers and, like some others, spoke on condition that he not be identified. He added, "I am very upset with the process."

The Bush administration has said the two trailers, which allied forces found in Iraq in April and May, are evidence that Saddam Hussein was hiding a program for biological warfare. In a white paper last week, it publicly detailed its case, even while conceding discrepancies in the evidence and a lack of hard proof.
Now, intelligence analysts stationed in the Middle East, as well as in the United States and Britain, are disclosing serious doubts about the administration's conclusions in what appears to be a bitter debate within the intelligence community. Skeptics said their initial judgments of a weapon application for the trailers had faltered as new evidence came to light.

In effect, early conclusions by agents on the ground that the trailers were indeed mobile units to produce germs for weapons have since been challenged.

"I have no great confidence that it's a fermenter," a senior analyst with long experience in unconventional arms said of a tank for multiplying seed germs into lethal swarms. The government's public report, he added, "was a rushed job and looks political." This analyst had not seen the trailers himself, but reviewed evidence from them.

The skeptical experts said the mobile plants lacked gear for steam sterilization, normally a prerequisite for any kind of biological production, peaceful or otherwise. Its lack of availability between production runs would threaten to let in germ contaminants, resulting in failed weapons.

Second, if this shortcoming were somehow circumvented, each unit would still produce only a relatively small amount of germ-laden liquid, which would have to undergo further processing at some other factory unit to make it concentrated and prepare it for use as a weapon.

Finally, they said, the trailers have no easy way for technicians to remove germ fluids from the processing tank.

Some doubters noted that the intelligence community was still scrambling to analyze the trailers, suggesting that the white paper may have been premature. They said laboratories in the Middle East and the United States were now analyzing more than 100 samples from the trailers to verify the intelligence findings. Allied forces, they noted, have so far failed to find any of the envisioned support vehicles that the trailers would need to produce biological weapons.

One skeptic questioned the practicality of some of the conjectural steps the Iraqis are envisioned as having taken to adapt the trailers to the job of making deadly germs.

"It's not built and designed as a standard fermenter," he said of the central tank. "Certainly, if you modify it enough you could use it. But that's true of any tin can."

Aside from Miller freely reporting material that contradicts her breathless reporting of just several weeks ago, what is also interesting here is that the disclosure piece at the end of the story states clearly that Miller’s embedment agreement is still in place, and the Pentagon reviewed her story and made no changes before it was published today. Also, Miller’s piece from just two weeks ago stated that the intelligence community was united in its assessment that the trailers were indicative of WMD production. Obviously this is not the case, and the intel community is asserting that there is no such unanimity on this subject. Again, with the Pentagon reviewing and allowing this angle to go forward, it looks to me like Rummy is setting up a “blame the intel community” defense here.

Steve :: 10:05 AM :: Comments (10) :: Digg It!