Friday :: Nov 19, 2004

Shades of Chalabi - Powell Uses Intelligence From Walk-In Source On Iran


by Steve

In a move eerily similar to the mistakes made in accepting questionable intelligence on Iraq, it now appears that Colin Powell’s assertions earlier this week that Iran was ramping up its nuclear weapons delivery program were based on a single source of unknown credibility, whose veracity had yet to be established before Powell made his claims.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell shared information with reporters Wednesday about Iran's nuclear program that was classified and based on an unvetted, single source who provided information that two U.S. officials said yesterday was highly significant if true but has not yet been verified.

According to one official with access to the material, a "walk-in" source approached U.S intelligence earlier this month with more than 1,000 pages purported to be Iranian drawings and technical documents, including a nuclear warhead design and modifications to enable Iranian ballistic missiles to deliver an atomic strike.

A walk-in source? What is this, drive-by intelligence? Did he deliver a pizza with that intelligence?

The official said the CIA remains unsure about the authenticity of the documents and how they came into the informant's possession. A second official would say only that there are questions about the source of the information.

Officials interviewed by The Washington Post did not know the identity of the source or whether the individual is connected to an Iranian exile group that made fresh accusations about Iran at a news conference Wednesday in Paris. The National Council for Resistance in Iran charged that Iran was enriching uranium and will continue to do so despite the pledge made Sunday to European foreign ministers.

Oh great; another “exile group” that walks in and drops off documents that suddenly become our chief piece of intelligence to buttress a case for immediate action against another member of the Axis of Evil. Does this sound familiar, and why would Powell after his UN performance do it again?

The group also claimed that Iran received blueprints for a Chinese-made bomb in the mid-1990s from the global nuclear network led by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. The group, which is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department, exposed a secret Iranian enrichment facility in 2002, but many of its claims have been inaccurate.

The lack of certainty about the source who approached U.S. intelligence had kept officials from talking publicly about the information, and Powell's comments caught the small group of informed officials by surprise and angered some of them.

As a result of Powell’s premature comments, the Bush Administration has had to undercut Powell’s claims to our European allies in order to maintain some semblance of involvement in efforts to get Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program.

Yesterday, in an effort to assuage European concerns, the administration told diplomats from those countries that Powell misspoke in releasing information that had not yet been verified, sources said. During a conversation about Iran with reporters accompanying him on a trip to Chile on Wednesday, Powell said he had "seen some information that would suggest that they have been actively working on delivery systems. I'm not talking about uranium or fissile material or the warhead, I'm talking about what one does with a warhead."

Yet both Powell and his outgoing Number Two Richard Armitage remained steadfast in their claims that the intelligence from the pizza delivery guy about Iranian activities was accurate.

Powell's spokesman said yesterday that the secretary stood by those remarks. "The secretary did not misspeak," said State Department spokesman J. Adam Ereli, who added that Powell's deputy, Richard L. Armitage, "saw the same information."

So why would Powell, who had already been shown the door with the quick announcement of Condi’s succession, be so ready to leak something that can only make the Administration’s job in selling tough action on Iran that much more difficult, especially at a time when a united front in dealing with Iran and its activities is essential? And why would Powell, who was trying to rehabilitate himself for the February 2003 fiasco at the UN, jump once again into a pile of dogpoop by running with information from Iran’s version of Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress?

Probably because this whole sorry episode makes Porter Goss’s CIA look good by comparison.

Steve :: 9:58 AM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!