Friday :: Nov 18, 2005

WMDgate: Fixing Intelligence Around Policy - The Aluminum Tubes, Part 2A-2

by eriposte

This post is part of a series (see Introduction, Part 1, Part 2A-1) focused on building a case to demonstrate the Bush White House's intelligence manipulation, fixing and misrepresentation, mostly using published Congressional reports like the Phase I Senate (SSCI) Report, the Robb-Silberman WMD Commission Report, etc. While it is clear that even without the use of Congressional reports, the case against the Bush White House is pretty solid - see here and here for example - I wanted to demonstrate that the parliamentary reports, rather than make the case against the White House weaker, actually make it stronger. [Note: All extracts from published reports may have lost some original formatting (in particular, italics). This is unintentional, but it does not change the meaning or content in any way.]

In Part 2A-1, I showed that an examination of CIA reports on the aluminum tubes prior to early September 2002 made it clear that the Bush administration's "ignorance" defense (claiming that the CIA never told them that alternative uses were possible for the tubes) was false. That said, CIA reports were not the only ones that the White House was reading. There were a number of other agencies and sources that were submitting intelligence reports on the aluminum tubes and at least some (if not most) of these must have been sent to the White House. So, it is important to understand what other IC reports were saying in the pre-Sep-2002 timeframe on the topic of aluminum tubes, and whether these reports mentioned the possible alternative uses for the aluminum tubes.

I start that analysis in this post with a focus mainly on the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), i.e. Part 2A-2 largely addresses the following question:

Which DIA intelligence reports would Rice, Cheney, and Bush would have to have not read in order to make the claim(s) in early September 2002, that Iraq was buying aluminum tubes specifically to enrich uranium in centrifuges?

As a footnote, I also add some comments relating to the stance of NGIC (National Ground Intelligence Center) - that the CIA (and DIA) used for support.

The discussion is divided into the following sections.

1. Senate (SSCI) Report
2. Robb-Silberman WMD Commission Report
3. Conclusions
4. Footnote on NGIC

1. Senate (SSCI) Report

Here are some passages from the SSCI report that discuss some of the DIA reporting on the tubes (bold text is my emphasis):

On August 2, 2001, the DIA produced an internal background paper outlining the brewing debate within the IC about the intended and likely end use for the aluminum tubes. The paper briefly discussed the assessments from both the CIA and the DOE on the intended purpose of the tubes and noted that "DIA analysts found the CIA WINPAC presentation to be very compelling."
In November 2001, the DIA published a Military Intelligence Digest (MID) supplement [DELETED], Iraq: Procuring Possible Nuclear-Related Gas Centrifuge Equipment. The MID was prepared by a DIA Iraq nuclear analyst and an analyst from the NGIC, the IC agency responsible for conventional ground weapons systems assessments. The MID assessed that "Although alternative uses for the tubes are possible, such as rocket motor cases or rocket launch tubes, the specifications are consistent with earlier Iraqi gas centrifuge rotor designs:"
In September 2002, DIA published an assessment of Iraq's Reemerging Nuclear Weapons Program, which included an assessment of the tubes potential use in an Iraqi gas centrifuge enrichment program. The assessment noted that "Alternative uses for the tubes, such as rocket motor cases or launch tubes, are possible. However, this is less likely because the specifications are consistent with late-1980s Iraqi gas centrifuge rotor designs."

2. Robb-Silberman WMD Commission Report

Let's add this from the Robb-Silberman WMD Commission report (emphasis mine):

DIA assessed that "[a]lternative uses" for the tubes were "possible," but that such alternatives were "less likely because the specifications [of the tubes] are consistent with late 1980s Iraqi gas centrifuge rotor designs." [158]

DOE disputed this analysis on several grounds.

What's reference 158? (emphasis mine)

[158] DIA, Iraq's Reemerging Nuclear Weapon Program (DI-1610-93-02-SCI) (Aug. 7, 2002) at p. 9.

3. Conclusions

Despite the sparse coverage of the detailed contents of the DIA intel reports on the aluminum tubes in both the SSCI Report and the Robb-Silberman report, the available information in these "bipartisan" reports makes it clear that:

(a) Multiple DIA intel reports prior to early September 2002 clearly indicated that the aluminum tubes could possibly be used in applications other than nuclear centrifuges. As I have highlighted above, at least three (and possibly four, depending on the date of the September 2002 report) DIA reports made this clear - and these were the reports on:

  • August 2, 2001
  • November 2001
  • August 7, 2002
  • September (?) , 2002

(b) At least one (and possibly two, depending on the date of the September 2002 report) of the DIA intel reports prior to early September 2002 clearly indicated that the aluminum tubes could be used in rocket motor cases or rocket launch tubes:

  • November 2001
  • September (?), 2002

(c) At least one of the DIA intel reports prior to early September 2002 even mentioned the DOE's alternative view on the end use of the aluminum tubes. This was the report dated:

  • August 2, 2001

(d) Since the SSCI Report and the Robb-Silberman Report do not provide complete details on all the DIA reports on aluminum tubes issued between April 2001 and September 2002, there is no reason to believe that the number of DIA reports mentioning alternative uses of the tubes is limited to the ones discussed above. However, it is more than likely, that if other DIA reports did get generated in this time period, they did mention that alternative uses of the aluminum tubes were possible (even if they did not necessarily call out DOE's statements explicitly in all those reports). This is supported by the fact that the DIA was closely following the CIA line of argument and the CIA reports themselves mentioned the possibility of other uses for the tubes.

We also know that DIA reports are read by the White House. After all, it was a DIA report that prompted Dick Cheney's now famous query to the CIA about the uranium from Niger reporting (see the SSCI Report, page 38). As this October 2004 New York Times article points out (emphasis mine):

Mr. Cheney, for example, read a Feb. 12, 2002, report from the Defense Intelligence Agency about Iraq's reported attempts to buy 500 tons of yellowcake, a uranium concentrate, from Niger, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report. Many American intelligence analysts did not put much stock in the Niger report. Mr. Cheney pressed for more information.

At the same time, a senior intelligence official said, the agency [DIA] was fielding repeated requests from Mr. Cheney's office for intelligence about the tubes, including updates on Iraq's continuing efforts to procure thousands more after the seizure in Jordan.

Considering that multiple DIA reports prior to early September 2002 explicitly acknowledged the possibility of alternate uses for the aluminum tubes, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the White House must have read one or more of these DIA reports in that time period. So, quite apart from the false blame the White House placed on the CIA to cover-up the Bush White House's deliberately misleading and false claims about the intended use of the aluminum tubes, their burden of proof on ignorance goes well beyond the CIA reports.

4. Footnote on NGIC

NGIC is the National Ground Intelligence Center. As the Senate (SSCI) Report explains, so-called "experts" from NGIC were harnessed by the CIA to trumpet the tubes-for-centrifuges hoax. Yet, even NGIC did not categorically rule out the possibility of alternative uses for the tubes. For example, consider this very sparse extract mentioned in the Senate Report (emphasis mine):

In September 2002, the CIA published an even more extensive analysis of the tubes in a second intelligence assessment, Iraq's Hunt for Aluminum Tubes: Evidence of a Renewed Uranium Enrichment Program. This assessment also discussed Iraqi efforts to hide the tube procurement attempts, the materials, high cost, tight tolerances, dimensions and the anodized coating of the tubes, and CIA's assessment that the tubes "matched" known centrifuge rotor dimensions. The assessment also included a box outlining NGIC's analysis that the tubes were unlikely to be intended for a conventional rocket program.

Now, we don't know all the information that was in the NGIC analysis, but the use of the word "unlikely" makes it clear that that NGIC was not considering alternative uses impossible or implausible.

We can confirm this was the case by referring to the Robb-Silberman WMD Commission report (emphasis mine):

Analysts from the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), a component of the U.S. Army recognized as the national experts on conventional military systems, judged that while it could "not totally rule out the possibility" that the tubes could be used for rockets and thus were not destined for a nuclear-related use, the tubes were, technically speaking, poor choices for rocket bodies.

[Note that the above passage appears to refer to an NGIC report or communication sometime around August 2001.]

The bottom line is simple. Even NGIC (which incidentally was not an expert in nuclear technology or centrifuges), admitted that alternative uses for the tubes were possible. So, there was no certainty even among the three agencies peddling the fake centrifuge theory (CIA, DIA and NGIC) that the aluminum tubes were targeted specifically towards uranium centrifuges.

Which makes the Bush administration's claims all the more outrageous.

eriposte :: 6:42 AM :: Comments (8) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!