��� Red Team

WARNING: This document is a reader submission to eriposte at The Left Coaster (http://www.theleftcoaster.com). The information and opinions contained in this document are the sole responsibility of the author (who prefers to use the alias FMJ). The Left Coaster and its editors do not own or take responsibility for the content and accuracy of this document. However, this document is being made part of the document collection at The Left Coaster for reference purposes. This submission was linked to from this TLC blog post and it was updated by the author (FMJ) on 1/6/06 to correct some formatting problems.

[Author'���s note: The following account of the U.S. Intelligence Community���s analysis of Iraq���s high-strength aluminum tube procurement is based primarily on the reports of the United States Senate and Robb-Silberman Commission. Both investigated the WMD ���intelligence failure��� of 2002-2003 and their reports describe many assessments the Intelligence Community published in that time. Unfortunately, neither report discusses these assessments in their chronological order. For example, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) discusses the Department of Energy���s December, 2001 assessment in its section on the National Intelligence Estimate, which was published in October, 2002. The Robb-Silberman Commission (RS) describes the assessments of various agencies as if they occurred simultaneously. However, the report���s footnotes reveal that the different assessments were actually published months apart. (I suspect this obfuscation may have been deliberate.) In any case, my article discusses the aluminum tube assessments ��� and, more importantly, the arguments they contained ��� in their chronological order. Where there are gaps, I���ve had to rely on press reports, though fortunately I���ve not had to do so often. ��� FMJ]




Red Team: How Aluminum Tubes were Fixed Around Policy




���If there were such documents -- and that is not an admission -- I would have seen to it they were shredded.���
���A lot of tape and a little patience make all the difference.���
- The Penguin in ���Batman Returns��� (1992)



The term ���red team��� comes from U.S. war games during the Cold War. U.S. officers would be assigned to play as the Soviets against the U.S. Armed Forces. In the war game, the U.S. would be the blue team; the ���Soviet��� officers were the red team (Kaplan, 2004). In the world of intelligence, a red team is a group of intelligence analysts who try to adopt the mentality of the enemy they are analysing. Also known as a ���Team B���, a red team���s role is to challenge and re-interpret major intelligence assessments and make sure all the right questions have been asked. Red teams are useful in war games because they provide an element of uncertainty. Novel ���enemy��� tactics test the Armed Forces��� flexibility (Kaplan, 2004). Their utility in intelligence analysis, however, is questionable.


Red teams are often needlessly contrarian (Kaplan, 2004). By affecting the enemy���s mentality, a red team must make certain assumptions about the enemy���s beliefs, goals, tactics and perception of the United States. The danger is when a red team assumes the very thing it is supposed to be evaluating. In fact, the required mindset is not dissimilar to Creationism. Like Creationists, red teams search for facts to fit their theories instead of forming their theories to fit the facts. As long as the theory is not absolutely impossible, it cannot be dismissed no matter what evidence is presented. The red team���s analysis becomes a tautology; their persistent questions a distraction for serious analysts.


Red teams are also notorious in intelligence circles for exaggerating the level of threat posed by an enemy. For red teams, the most likely scenario is always the worst-case. A famous example is the ���Team B��� exercise during the Ford and Carter administrations. Chaired by Harvard professor Richard Pipes, the team investigated the Intelligence Community���s assessments of Soviet strategic policies and objectives. Team B accused the CIA of underestimating the Soviet threat. The team concluded that the Soviets were developing charged-particle-beam missile defenses, had bigger and more accurate warheads, were spending a lot more money on offensive warfare, and intended to launch a disarming first strike against U.S. nuclear forces. Tellingly, the team argued that the Soviets had deployed an undetectable anti-submarine system because the Intelligence Community had been unable to detect one. Team B���s report has since been declassified. They were wrong on almost every judgment they made. (Hessing Cahn, 1993)


Almost three decades later, red teams would play an important role in the Bush administration���s march to war with Iraq. In September, 2002, the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) began work on a National Intelligence Estimate to inform congress of the threat posed by Iraq���s weapons of mass destruction capabilities. The vote to authorise the Bush administration���s use of force against Iraq had been scheduled for October and although most NIEs are produced over a period of several months, to make the deadline the NIE would have to be completed in less than three weeks. The October NIE would be titled Iraq���s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction and purport to be the IC���s most comprehensive and authoritative assessment of the Iraqi threat.


The October NIE���s most frightening judgment was that Iraq had begun reconstituting its gas centrifuge uranium enrichment program. After UN weapons inspectors had left the country in 1998, Iraq had begun clandestine procurements of centrifuge components. If left unchecked, the NIE said, Saddam Hussein would have a nuclear weapon within five to seven years. Days later, congress voted overwhelming to approve the Bush administration���s use of force against Iraq.


After the fall of Baghdad in April, 2003, the Iraq Survey Group, headed by David Kay and then Charles Duelfer, was assigned to search Iraq for weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and programs. ISG found that Iraq had ended its nuclear program after the 1991 Gulf War. ISG found no evidence of Iraqi efforts to reconstitute the program. (ISG, p. 1) The NIE���s judgment had been dead wrong.


The Intelligence Community���s pre-war assessments of Iraq���s WMD capabilities were investigated by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Robb-Silberman Commission. The reports of both investigations reveal that the NIE���s assessment of Iraq���s nuclear capabilities had been based almost entirely on an analysis of high-strength aluminum tubes Iraq had been trying to import throughout 2001 and 2002. The analysis cited by the NIE was not performed by the IC���s experts on gas centrifuges, the Office of Intelligence in the Department of Energy (DOE), however. The DOE had concluded over a year earlier that the tubes could not be used in a gas centrifuge program without extensive modification and were most likely part of Iraq���s Nasser-81 rocket program. The NIE���s analysis was performed by a red team in September, 2002 ��� days after President George W. Bush cited the tubes as evidence of Iraq���s reconstitution in his address to the UN General Assembly. It was a red team that fixed the aluminum tubes around the policy of pre-emptive war with Iraq.


Part 1: Uranium Enrichment for Dummies


There are many issues surrounding the IC���s various assessments of the Iraqi tubes��� intended end-use over 2001 and 2002. To understand these, some basic information about nuclear weapons, uranium and gas centrifuge uranium enrichment is required. The following section will cover the necessary details.


The simplest nuclear weapons are fuelled by an isotope of uranium called uranium-235. Uranium-235 is fissile material, which means that when there is enough of it (i.e. when the isotope is at ���critical mass���), it can support a nuclear fission chain reaction. The resulting violent release of tremendous energy is commonly known as a nuclear explosion.


When natural uranium (called ���yellowcake���) is first mined from the earth, it is only about 0.7 percent uranium-235; the rest is a different uranium isotope ��� uranium-238. Uranium-238 is not fissile material: no matter what its quantity, it will not sustain a fission chain reaction. Uranium-238 cannot be used in a nuclear weapon. To begin building a nuclear weapon from yellowcake, the two isotopes must first be separated.


The process of separating uranium isotopes is called uranium ���enrichment���. When a quantity of uranium is over ninety percent uranium-235 it is termed ���highly enriched uranium��� (HEU). HEU���s critical mass, the quantity required for a nuclear weapon, is only about fifty kilograms. However, enriching more than gram amounts of HEU is an extremely difficult process.


More than seven metric tonnes of yellowcake must be enriched to provide enough HEU for one nuclear weapon. Most enrichment methods exploit the difference in weight between uranium isotopes. Atoms of uranium-235 are lighter than atoms of uranium-238. However, as if separating atoms wasn���t difficult enough, the difference between the isotopes��� weights is also very small ��� only about 1.27 percent. Enrichment requires a lot of highly-technical and energy-intensive equipment, such as a gas centrifuge.


A gas centrifuge enriches uranium by means of centrifugal force. First, the natural uranium has to be turned into a gas (this is usually done by combining it with gaseous fluorine to create uranium hexafluoride). The uranium gas is then pumped into the centrifuge���s ���rotor���, which is a tube made of high-strength material spinning incredibly fast. To generate the centrifugal force necessary to separate uranium isotopes, the rotor must spin more than 90,000 revolutions per minute (rpm). The rotor���s internal diameter must also be as wide as possible. The centrifugal force inside the rotor pushes the heavier uranium-238 molecules to the rotor���s wall. The lighter uranium-235 molecules are left to collect in the center.


A lot of the difficulty building a gas centrifuge comes from developing a rotor capable of spinning at the required rpm. Very few materials can withstand such high rotational speeds. The earliest gas centrifuge, the 1940s ���Beams-type��� centrifuge, named for its inventor Jesse Beams, used rotors made from 2000 series aluminum (���duraluminum���). The Beams centrifuge rotor was supported by an oil bearing, which is why the Beams design is sometimes called an ���oil centrifuge���. Duraluminum however, proved to be too weak. The wall thickness required by duraluminum rotors to survive 90,000 rpm made the rotors too heavy. By the 1950s, the Beams centrifuge had been replaced by the ���Zippe-type��� centrifuge design. The Zippe centrifuge used powerful magnets to support the rotor instead of an oil bearing and could use thinner-walled rotors made from the more resilient 7000 series aluminum. Today, centrifuge rotors are manufactured from even stronger material, such as carbon fiber or maraging steel.


A single gas centrifuge will never enrich more than a nominal quantity of uranium, no matter what its rotor���s material or internal diameter. Enriching enough uranium for a nuclear weapon requires thousands of centrifuges running simultaneously, side-by-side, in what���s called a ���centrifuge cascade���. The centrifuges in a cascade are interconnected by a complex system of pipes made from a material resistant to the corrosive effects of uranium hexafluoride gas, such as steel. The pipes transfer gas rich in uranium-235 from a rotor���s center to the next centrifuge in the cascade so the gas can be enriched further. Meanwhile, the pipes return the uranium-238 gas forced to the rotor���s wall back to the cascade���s start.


The time a cascade takes to enrich fifty kilograms of HEU depends on its number of centrifuges and the size of each centrifuge rotor���s internal diameter. A cascade of six thousand centrifuges, each with a rotor internal diameter of 150mm, will take about a year to enrich enough HEU for a nuclear weapon, provided the cascade runs day and night and nothing goes wrong. If the rotors are half that size, then the cascade will need twelve thousand centrifuges to enrich the same amount of uranium in the same time.


Part 2: The Aluminum Tubes


Iraq began a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment program in August, 1987 (Albright, 1997). Iraq planned to build first a working centrifuge, then a number of experimental cascades, then commission a cascade facility comprising a thousand centrifuges. Iraq���s goal was to be able to produce 10kg of HEU per year by 1994 (Albright, 1997). Iraqi scientists attempted to build a Beams centrifuge, however the project was abandoned in 1989. Iraq had obtained a more advanced centrifuge design, a modified Zippe-type developed by the European enrichment conglomerate, Urenco. The Zippe/ Urenco design could use carbon fibre or maraging steel rotors. The Iraqis also acquired technical expertise in centrifuge construction from Germany. By the end of 1990, Iraq had built two working Zippe/Urenco centrifuges. Iraq would have started development of a centrifuge cascade had not its enrichment program been halted after the 1991 Gulf War (Albright, 1997).


The U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) first began to suspect Iraq may be reconstituting its gas centrifuge enrichment program in early 2001. UN weapons inspectors had left Iraq in 1998 and now an Iraqi front company was trying to buy 60,000 high-strength aluminum tubes. The front company���s communications had been monitored and a contract detailing the tubes��� specifications intercepted (Albright, 2003). Under Security Council resolution 687, Iraq was banned from importing high-strength aluminum tubes with outer diameters in excess of 75mm. The Iraqi aluminum tubes had an external diameter specified at 81mm.


On April 10, 2001, the CIA published its first assessment of the tubes, based on the tubes��� specifications as provided by the intercepted contract. The assessment was largely the work of an analyst in CIA���s Center for Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control (WINPAC). He assessed that tubes with such specifications had ���little use��� other than for rotors in a gas centrifuge program (SSCI, p. 88). The WINPAC analyst has subsequently been identified in press reports as ���Joe��� (for example, see Gellman and Pincus, 2003). Joe, however, was not a centrifuge expert. Although he had worked on a U.S. centrifuge program, he had had no experience with the 1950s aluminum-rotor centrifuges, such as the Zippe and Beams design. Even so, Joe���s theory that the tubes were intended for an Iraqi centrifuge program would eventually become the majority position of the IC in the October, 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.


Table 1 ��� Specifications of the Iraqi Aluminum (Al) Tubes



Outer Diameter



Inner Diameter



Wall Thickness



7075-T6 Al

(Source: SSCI, pp. 88; 93. Duelfer, 2004, Vol. 2, p. 27)


The IC���s experts on centrifuges, the DOE, also analysed the tubes��� specifications. The DOE judged that the tubes were not likely to be part of a centrifuge program. The tubes��� internal diameter was only ���marginally large enough for practical centrifuge applications.��� (SSCI, p. 89). This meant that the centrifugal force inside the rotor would not be very strong. The amount of uranium the rotors could enrich in a year would be so insignificant that if Iraq wanted enough HEU for a nuclear weapon, the cascade would have to be larger than any that had ever been built.


Even if Iraq was building a small centrifuge cascade, they would require much more equipment than just high-strength tubes. Iraq would need thousands of top- and end-caps, thousands of baffles, scoops, magnetic suspension bearings, molecular pumps, and so on. None of these items had been detected, so it was unlikely that Iraq was building a cascade. Also, the manner the procurement was handled (multiple agents, multiple suppliers, price quotes, haggling) suggested to DOE that the tubes were more likely a conventional military purchase (SSCI, p. 89).


Still, the tubes were a clear contravention of UNSCR 687. Also, the IC had not yet had physical access to the tubes, just their specifications as listed on the intercepted contract. In June, the CIA seized a shipment of 2000 tubes in Jordan en route to Iraq (SSCI, p. 90; Butler, p. 131).


After the tubes��� seizure, a very strange assessment was disseminated through the IC on July 2, 2001. The SSCI report redacts the name of the assessment���s authoring agency but says it was based on the ���inspection��� of the tubes by unnamed ���personnel���  (SSCI, p. 90). The personnel claimed that the tubes ���are constructed from high-strength aluminum (7075-T6) and are manufactured to the tight tolerances necessary for gas centrifuges.��� Significantly, the personnel also claimed that the tubes��� dimensions ���match those of a publicly available gas centrifuge design from the 1950s, known as the Zippe centrifuge.��� The assessment concluded that the tubes��� specifications ���far exceed any known conventional weapons application��� (SSCI, p. 90).


In mid-July, Joe the WINPAC analyst was also claiming that the tubes ���matched��� a Zippe centrifuge design. Joe asserted that the tubes only needed to be cut in half and they would appear very similar to Zippe���s three-inch rotor design (Albright, 2003). But DOE analysts pointed out that Joe was wrong. The Iraqi tubes had walls three times thicker than any of Zippe���s designs. Even if the tubes were cut in half, they would still be too heavy.


Table 2 ��� Specifications of the Iraqi Tubes and the Zippe 3��� Rotor


Iraqi Tubes

Zippe 3���




Outer Diameter



Inner Diameter



Wall Thickness




7075-T6 Al

2000-T6 Al

 (Source: SSCI, pp. 88; 93;110)


Joe appears to have conceded the DOE���s point by the end of July. The tubes��� wall thickness precluded their use as Zippe 3��� rotors. When Joe and a DOE analyst travelled to Vienna to address the IAEA on the tubes��� significance, Joe modified his argument. He argued that the Iraqis would not only cut the tubes in half, but also machine down the walls of each tube before building them into Zippe centrifuge rotors. The IAEA was unpersuaded, however. One IAEA centrifuge expert referred to Joe���s presentation as ���really bad��� (Albright, 2003).


It is extremely difficult to machine a high-strength aluminum tube without rendering it useless as a centrifuge rotor. A centrifuge rotor a few tenths of a millimetre lopsided is going to have significant balancing problems. So, any machining of the tubes would have to be extraordinarily precise. Also, the heat produced by machining and the way in which the tube is held can also easily distort their shape.


Although it was technically possible the Iraqis could machine 1000s of tubes to match Zippe 3��� rotors it would cost the Iraqis significant time, energy and effort. As one DOE analyst noted, ���you could turn your new Yugo into Cadillac with enough time and energy and effort as well.��� (SSCI, p. 112). By early-August, Joe had abandoned his ���wall thinning��� theory and instead was intent on proving the DOE wrong. Joe was searching for evidence of centrifuge rotors with walls as thick as the Iraqi tubes.


Joe���s research found its way into an August 2, 2001, DIA background paper on the tubes. Joe had given a presentation that questioned the DOE���s assessment that the tubes��� walls were too thick and did not match Zippe rotor designs. Joe had decided to combine the dimensions of all the Zippe designs to make the tubes��� inner and outer diameters appear to match. He had also decided in spite of DOE that Zippe���s wall thickness could be ���interpreted��� as 2.8mm, not 1mm (SSCI, p. 91). And, just as the ���personnel��� had claimed in July, Joe argued that the tubes��� wall thickness tolerance and high-strength aluminum made them suitable for use as centrifuge rotors (SSCI p. 90).


Table 3 ��� Specifications of Iraqi Tubes and Joe���s Zippe Frankenstein


Iraqi Tubes

Joe���s Zippe Frankenstein



279.4mm ��� 381.0mm

Outer Diameter


74.2mm ��� 81.9mm

Inner Diameter


68.6mm ��� 76.3mm

Wall Thickness




7075-T6 Al

2000 or 7000 series Al

 (Source: SSCI, pp. 88;91;93)


Although the DIA analysts who attended the presentation found it ���compelling���, it seems unlikely that Joe convinced many in the IC. WINPAC did not publish a finished intelligence product based on Joe���s research. Nobody did. Not even the DIA. Instead, DOE published an extensive eight-page Technical Intelligence Note on the Iraqi tubes. The paper refuted every argument Joe had made.


On August 17, 2001, the DOE published Iraq���s Gas Centrifuge Program: Is Reconstitution Underway? Although the July ���personnel��� had claimed the tubes��� specifications exceeded conventional weapons applications, the DOE had identified a non-nuclear end-use for the tubes: rocket motor cases. After the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq declared its possession of 160,000 high-strength aluminum tubes that had been intended for their Nasser-81 multiple rocket launch system (MRLS). The DOE paper pointed out that the dimensions and material of these tubes were an exact match for the tubes Iraq was pursuing in 2001.


The only specification that did not match exactly was the tolerances: the tolerances for the Nasser-81 were not as tight as the tolerances for the tubes. However, the DOE pointed out that the tolerances still were not tight enough for centrifuge rotors. In fact, they were looser than expected for an aluminum rotor ���by factors of two to five��� (SSCI, p. 92).


DOE also thoroughly explained why the tubes could not be used in a Zippe centrifuge without extensive modification. Zippe had designed a number of centrifuge rotors and the tubes did not match a single one of them. In particular, the tubes��� walls were three times too thick. Contradicting Joe���s presentation, the paper stated that all known aluminum rotors had a wall thickness of less than 1mm. (DOE analysts say that they explained this to Joe ���many times��� over the next two years and even went to the extraordinary length of asking Gernot Zippe himself.) The paper then went on to explore ���various workable schemes to modify the tubes for favorable centrifuge rotor use.��� These included machining the inner and outer surfaces ���up to and including re-melting the tubes and restarting���[the] fabrication process.��� (RS, p. 209).


Table 4 ��� Specifications of Iraqi Tubes, Nasser-81 Rocket tubes and Zippe-Type Rotors


Iraqi Tubes

Nasser-81 Rocket

Zippe 2.75���

Zippe 3���

Zippe 4���







Outer Diameter

81.0mm (+0/-0.1)






Inner Diameter

74.4mm (+0.1/-0)






Wall Thickness







7075-T6 Al

7075-T6 Al

2000-T6 Al

2000-T6 Al

7000 S Al

(Source: Albright, 2003; Duelfer, 2004, vol. 2, p. 27)


DOE agreed with Joe that Gernot Zippe had used high-strength aluminum in his 1950s designs. However, Iraq in the late-1980s had built a Zippe centrifuge based on a design modified by the European company Urenco that had been developed in the early-1970s. The Zippe/Urenco designs used maraging steel and carbon fibre rotors, both of which are much stronger than aluminum. Maraging steel and carbon fibre can withstand much greater centrifugal force and so can be used in rotors with much larger diameters, almost twice the size aluminum allows. (Albright, 2003) So, not only would maraging steel or carbon fibre enrich uranium much faster than an aluminum rotor, but an aluminum rotor would be too small for the design the Iraqis knew how to build. (SSCI, p. 92) If Iraq did modify the tubes for use in a centrifuge cascade, it ���would need to undertake its development program all over again and address each aspect of centrifuge engineering again at the reduced diameter and using the different rotor material.��� (SSCI, p. 92)


Table 5 ��� Specifications of Iraqi Tubes and Iraq���s Zippe/Urenco Rotors


Iraqi Tubes

Iraqi Maraging Steel

Iraqi Carbon Fibre





Outer Diameter




Inner Diameter




Wall Thickness





7075-T6 Al

Maraging Steel

Carbon Fiber

(Source: Albright, 2003)*


And so, by September, the matter had more or less been settled. There was no serious debate within the IC. One stubborn WINPAC analyst does not constitute a debate. No finished intelligence assessment based on Joe���s research had been written. A plausible explanation had been found: the tubes were rocket motor bodies. The IC���s experts had examined the tubes and concluded that they could only be used in a centrifuge if the Iraqis made extensive modifications. Even then, the Iraqis would only have rotors for a centrifuge they���d never built, had no parts for, and wouldn���t work very well anyway. As one DOE analyst put it, if Iraq was really trying to make them into centrifuge rotors, ���we should just give them the tubes.��� (SSCI, p. 113).


Were Joe and the ���personnel��� part of a WINPAC red team? If they were, it would explain a lot. It would explain why Joe���s research wasn���t written up as a finished intelligence product. It would explain his changing explanations, but not his conclusion. It would explain why the ���personnel��� assumed the Iraqis would abandon their successful centrifuge design for one that was untested and out-of-date.


Part 3: The Fix Goes In


September 11, 2001. In the wake of the terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Centre, senior Bush administration officials became convinced that the U.S. must militarily overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein.


On October 18, the CIA published a Senior Executive Intelligence Brief, Iraq: Nuclear-Related Procurement Efforts (SSCI, p. 36). Unlike formal assessment papers, SEIBs are not disseminated among the IC. Instead, they are distributed to ���senior executives��� such as the president and vice-president. SEIBs are usually drafted in response to specific policymaker questions and are narrow in scope. From July, 2001, until July, 2002, the CIA published nine SEIBs that discussed the tubes, none of which provided any information that supported the assessment they were intended for a nuclear program beyond a description of Joe���s research.


In November, intelligence surfaced that Iraq had placed another order of aluminum tubes to the same specifications as those it had sought in July. The quantity required had increased from 60,000 to 100,000 tubes (Butler, p. 131). It is unknown whether the November order was seized like the previous tube shipment or if it managed to reach its destination.


At this time, senior policymakers appear to have become interested in Iraq���s 1980s gas centrifuge program and, in particular, the IC���s past assessments of it. Another SEIB, What We Knew About Iraq���s Centrifuge-Based Uranium Enrichment Program Before and After the Gulf War, was published on November 24. The document noted there were ���divergent views��� on the tubes��� likely end-use (RS, p. 196). Then, less than a week later, the tubes were being looked at again, this time by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).


The Military Intelligence Digest (MID) is published by the DIA a little like a newspaper. It���s distributed five times a week throughout the IC and contains a variety of intelligence products on diverse topics. On November 30, 2001, the MID included a supplement, Iraq: Procuring Possible Nuclear- Related Gas Centrifuge Equipment. The supplement was the first assessment of the tubes since DOE���s eight-page analysis in August. It argued that a conventional end-use for the tubes was ���possible��� but unlikely. The tubes��� use as centrifuge rotors was judged more plausible because their specifications were consistent with ���earlier Iraqi gas centrifuge rotor designs.��� (SSCI, p. 91).


In DOE���s August assessment, DOE had criticised Joe for assuming the Iraqis would build a 1950s Zippe centrifuge, when they had successfully built a more advanced Zippe/Urenco centrifuge with larger rotors made from maraging steel or carbon fiber. Besides, the tubes would not have worked in a 1950s Zippe centrifuge without extensive modification. The tubes��� walls were too thick. However, the Military Intelligence Digest pointed out that the Iraqis had worked on an earlier gas centrifuge design in the 1980s: a Beams centrifuge. The tubes��� walls might be too thick for any Zippe designs but, according to the MID, they were consistent with a Beams centrifuge rotor. Perhaps the Iraqis were planning a Beams centrifuge cascade?


Table 6 ��� Specifications of the Iraqi Tubes, Beams Design, and Iraq���s 1980s Beams Design


Iraqi Tubes


Iraqi Beams (1980s)





Outer Diameter




Inner Diameter




Wall Thickness





7075-T6 Al



(Source: SSCI, p. 109)


The DOE objected to the DIA���s analysis on a number of grounds. Technically, yes, the tubes could be used in a Beams-type gas centrifuge without significant modification. However, the MID had ignored an important point: the Beams centrifuge had never actually worked (RS, p. 71). Not even Jesse Beams himself had managed to develop a working Beams centrifuge. Although the Iraqis had pursued a Beams centrifuge in the late-1980s, they could never get it to work either. The Iraqi Beams centrifuge had never operated faster than 25,000 rpm ��� far too slow to separate uranium isotopes (Albright, 1997). When Iraq procured the Zippe/Urenco designs in 1989, their Beams centrifuge project was quickly abandoned.


On December 17, two weeks after the publication of the DIA���s MID supplement, DOE published Iraq: Seeking Additional Aluminum Tubes. The design the tubes most resembled was Zippe���s 3��� rotor. If the tubes were used in a Zippe centrifuge without thinning the walls, modifications to other parts of the centrifuge system would require ���significant additional research and development.��� (RS, p. 209).


The DOE paper also detailed the technical difficulties Iraq would encounter in any centrifuge design using rotors with as narrow an internal diameter as that of the tubes. The paper argued that the ���[Beams] centrifuge and the Zippe centrifuge have extremely low stage separation efficiencies that would lead to a very large number of centrifuge stages with a corresponding increase in cascade piping and complexity.��� (SSCI, p. 113). Iraq would need a cascade of between 12,000 and 16,000 centrifuges to produce enough HEU for a nuclear weapon in a year. A cascade that size would take years and years to build if it could be done at all. (In fact, DOE assessed that even a small cascade based on the tubes ���capable of enriching gram quantities��� of HEU would take Iraq close to a decade.) The only entities that had ever operated more than 10,000 centrifuges had been Russia and Urenco. A cascade that size required ���significant operational experience��� (SSCI, p. 113). DOE assessed it was doubtful that anyone could deploy a centrifuge cascade based on the tubes, let alone the Iraqis.


The December paper forcefully reasserted DOE���s position that the tubes were unlikely intended for a gas centrifuge program. However, there appears to have been one aspect of the MID supplement that the DOE paper did not address. The November supplement had included a text-box that contained an analysis of the tubes by the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC).


The NGIC are a part of the U.S. Army and are considered the national experts on conventional weapons systems (RS, p. 55). The NGIC text-box in the MID supplement was titled, Conventional Military Uses Unlikely for Aluminum Tubes. It said, ���Although 7075-T6 aluminum could be an acceptable metal for small rocket motor bodies, the 3.3-mm wall thickness and overall weight would make these particular tubes poor choices for rocket motor bodies. The thickness is roughly twice that of known small rocket motor bodies, and ...the 0.1 mm metal thickness tolerance along the 900 mm length is excessive for both rocket motor bodies and rocket launch tubes.��� [Author���s emphasis] (SSCI, p. 92)


NGIC���s assessment was incorrect and, frankly, suspicious. DOE had published the dimensions of Iraq���s Nasser-81 rocket in August. These were an exact match for the Iraqi tubes, including the wall thickness. It seems very strange that the U.S. rocket experts were unaware that the Nasser-81 ��� and the Italian Medusa rocket upon which the Nasser-81 is based ��� both had wall thicknesses of 3.3mm. It is also very strange that despite DOE���s learning these facts months earlier, there is no record that DOE ever corrected NGIC���s analysis or otherwise pointed it out.


It was true, however, that the ���0.1mm metal thickness tolerance��� was excessive for rockets (see Table 4). But Department of Defense rocket engineers pointed out to the Senate Intelligence Committee that ���excessive��� only meant ���unnecessary��� (SSCI, p. 102). The tight tolerances did not preclude the tubes��� use in rockets but were in fact ���perfectly usable��� as such. Tightened tolerances only indicated the inexperience of Iraqi rocket engineers. (SSCI, p. 102) The Iraq Survey Group later learned that this had been precisely the case. Iraq���s rocket engineers over-specified the motor casings��� tolerances because they believed it would improve the accuracy of the Nasser-81. (ISG, p. 26)


Adding to the mystery is the MID supplement���s level of classification. The supplement is classified ���SCI��� (RS, p. 206), which stands for ���sensitive compartmented information���. SCI is one of the highest levels of classification within the Intelligence Community. SCI material can only be stored in specialized highly secure facilities and is only ever distributed on a need-to-know basis (Director of Central Intelligence, Directive 1/21, 1994). It is very strange that a Military Intelligence Digest supplement, which had already been disseminated widely, has been designated SCI.


By the end of 2001, only one assessment had claimed that the tubes could be used in a gas centrifuge without significant modification: the November MID supplement. The assessment was not only wrong, but was shown to be wrong within two weeks of its publication. Despite this, the MID supplement, and in particular its mysterious NGIC text-box, would play a significant role over the next year as the Bush administration made its case for war.


Part 4: The Product Launch


Vice-President Dick Cheney declared publicly that Iraq was ���pursuing a nuclear weapon��� for the first time on March 17, 2002. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Robb-Silberman Commission would find later that the IC���s judgment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program was based on the CIA���s assessment of the Iraqi tubes. (SSCI, p. 85; RS, p. 52) However, the CIA had not published a detailed assessment of the tubes at the time of Cheney���s declaration and, in fact, would not do so until August 1. A Senior Executive Memorandum published in March, 2002, was titled The Status of Iraq���s Uranium Enrichment Program. The document explained that the tubes were only ���suitable��� for gas centrifuges (RS, p. 200) and only that Iraq ���may be trying��� to reconstitute its enrichment program (SSCI, p. 127). The document also stated that Iraq ���could��� have a nuclear weapon by ���mid-to-late decade��� (SSCI, p. 127). Despite these caveats, over the following months Cheney implied regularly in public addresses that Iraq���s nuclear weapons program was certain, advanced and a threat to the United States.


Cheney���s persistent public statements almost certainly had an effect on IC analysts. In a July 22 assessment, Iraq: Is Nuclear Reconstitution Underway?, the DOE listed three indications that Iraq ���might��� be reconstituting its gas centrifuge program but did not mention the Iraqi tubes (SSCI, p. 48). Instead the DOE based its case on Iraq���s efforts to procure magnets, Saddam���s recent contact with his ���nuclear cadre��� and evidence of Iraqi attempts to procure uranium from Niger (RS, p.59). (The Niger reporting was later shown to have been based on crude forgeries.) The Robb-Silberman Commission found that DOE���s position appeared ���rather dubious��� (RS, p. 75). Every other agency that judged Iraq was reconstituting its centrifuge program had relied on the tubes; DOE was the only agency that relied on the Niger reporting. As a former senior intelligence officer remarked in 2004, DOE���s position had ���made sense politically but not substantively��� (RS, p. 75).


On August 1, 2002, the CIA published its first assessment that stated categorically that Iraq had ���begun reconstituting its gas centrifuge program.��� (SSCI, p. 127). Iraq: Expanding WMD Capabilities Pose Growing Threat was published by the CIA���s Office of Near East and South Asia analysis (NESA) (RS, p. 200). The paper also contained the CIA���s first detailed assessment of the Iraqi tubes: a one-page outline (SSCI, p. 93). NESA argued that the tubes were destined for Iraq���s gas centrifuge program because of their ���materials, exceedingly stringent tolerances, high cost and the secrecy surrounding the procurement.��� (SSCI, p. 93).


NESA���s argument that the tubes��� material ��� 7075-T6 aluminum ��� and their ���stringent��� tolerances suggested a nuclear end-use had been made first in the shadowy ���personnel��� assessment of July 2, 2001. Both of these had been addressed in subsequent DOE papers. The Iraqis were not likely to pursue aluminum rotors because they had been successful building centrifuges from more effective material. High-strength aluminum was in fact suggestive of a non-nuclear end-use: the Nasser-81 rocket. The tubes��� tolerances were actually not stringent enough for centrifuges and many other common industrial items, such as aluminum cans, required tolerances to be much tighter.


The two new arguments for the tubes��� nuclear end-use in the NESA paper were the tubes��� ���high cost��� and the ���secrecy��� surrounding the procurement. However, the tubes were in fact cheaper than the tubes Iraq had purchased for rockets in the 1980s. Adjusted for inflation, the tubes Iraq had bought in the 1980s were up to $20 each. At $17.50 per tube in 2001, Iraq was actually getting a bargain (SSCI, p. 105). In fact, the Robb-Silberman commission found that similar tubes from a U.S. manufacturer were more expensive ��� $19.27 (RS, p. 72).


Also, the tubes��� procurement had not been a particularly well-kept secret. While the tubes��� purchase had been brokered through a front company, the Iraqis had used multiple agents and multiple suppliers, received quotes, and haggled over the price. The DOE had pointed out in April, 2001, that the manner of the procurement was more consistent with a conventional military purchase rather than a clandestine WMD program (SSCI, p. 89). Bizarrely, the National Intelligence Estimate, Iraq���s Continuing Weapons of Mass Destruction, would make the exact opposite argument barely two months later: Iraq���s tube procurement broke with its ���traditionally cautious approach��� and this persistence was somehow indicative of the tubes��� nuclear end-use (SSCI, p. 96).


The most significant aspect of the NESA paper is that it does not appear to have argued that the tubes��� dimensions ���matched��� or were in any way similar to known centrifuge rotors ��� Zippe, Beams or otherwise. The paper did not mention any other agency���s views on the tubes (RS, p. 200). It does not mention any of the DOE���s extensive analyses. It did not mention the November 2001 Military Intelligence Digest supplement. It did not mention the analysis of the NGIC. It appears that when NESA drafted the CIA���s first detailed assessment of the tubes, it did so with very limited information.


NESA���s single, limited, one-page outline appears to be the only basis of the CIA���s conclusion that Iraq was reconstituting its gas centrifuge program in August, 2002. On August 28, CIA ���Talking Points��� prepared for a Principals Committee Meeting noted that the tubes were ���destined for a gas centrifuge program��� and that their procurement showed ���clear intent to produce weapons-capable fissile material.��� (RS, p. 200).


On September 8, 2002, the ���product��� launch to build support for a U.S. invasion of Iraq began. As the first anniversary of September 11 approached, the Iraqi tubes ��� in particular their dimensions and specifications ��� were touted as evidence of Iraq���s active uranium enrichment program and the ���grave and gathering��� threat Iraq posed to the United States.


September 8, The New York Times, citing unnamed Bush administration officials (Karl Rove? Scooter Libby?):


���In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium. American officials said several efforts to arrange the shipment of the aluminum tubes were blocked or intercepted but declined to say, citing the sensitivity of the intelligence, where they came from or how they were stopped.

The diameter, thickness and other technical specifications of the aluminum tubes had persuaded American intelligence experts that they were meant for Iraq's nuclear program, officials said, and that the latest attempt to ship the material had taken place in recent months.��� [Author���s emphasis]


September 8, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on CNN Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer:


���We do know that there have been shipments going . . . into Iraq . . . of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to -- high-quality aluminum tools [sic] that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs ... We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon ... We know that he has the infrastructure, nuclear scientists to make a nuclear weapon ... The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don���t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.��� [Author���s emphasis]


September 8, Vice President Dick Cheney on NBC Meet the Press with Tim Russert:


���What we have seen recently that has raised our level of concern to the current state of unrest, if you will, if I can put it in those terms, is that he now is trying through his illicit procurement network to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium.

Specifically aluminum tubes. There's a story in the New York Times this morning --this is --and I want to attribute it to the Times. I don't want to talk about obviously specific intelligence sources. But it is now public that in fact he has been seeking to acquire, and we have been able to intercept and prevent him from acquiring through this particular channel, the kinds of tubes that are necessary to build a centrifuge. And the centrifuge is required to take low-grade uranium and enhance it into highly-enriched uranium, which is what you have to have in order to build a bomb. This is a technology he was working on back say before the Gulf War.

And one of the reasons it's of concern to him is we know about a particular shipment --we have intercepted that --we don't know what else, what other avenues he may be taking out there, what he may have already acquired��� So we have to deal with these bits and pieces and try to put them together into a mosaic to understand what's going on. But we do know with absolute certainty that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.��� [Author���s emphasis]


September 8, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell on Fox News Sunday with Tony Snow:


���There is no doubt that he has chemical weapons stocks��� With respect to biological weapons, we are confident that he has some stocks of those weapons and he is probably continuing to try to develop more��� With respect to nuclear weapons, we are quite confident that he continues to try to pursue the technology that would allow him to develop a nuclear weapon��� So there's no question that he has these weapons, but even more importantly, he is striving to do even more, to get even more.��� [Author���s emphasis]


September 12, President George W. Bush���s address to the United Nations General Assembly:


���Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program ��� weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq's state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.��� [Author���s emphasis]


The DOE���s response to the president���s remarks was swift. On September 13, DOE published Iraq: Recent Aluminum Tube Procurements. The DOE restated its judgment on the tubes: they could not be used in a gas centrifuge program without extensive modification. The tubes were ���too thick for the design Iraq would most likely be pursuing��� (RS, p. 208) and ���other conventional military uses [we]re

more plausible��� (RS, p. 57). If the administration wanted to make the case Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program, officials should refer to Saddam���s renewed contact with his nuclear scientists, Iraq���s dual-use procurements and evidence Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from Niger (RS, p. 203).


The DOE���s dissent on the tubes��� most likely end-use was leaked to the New York Times on the same day. The article quoted unnamed senior administration officials (Karl Rove? Scooter Libby?) who dismissed DOE���s expert analysis as irrelevant.


���Senior officials acknowledged yesterday that there have been debates among intelligence experts about Iraq's intentions in trying to buy such tubes, but added that the dominant view in the administration was that the tubes were intended for use in gas centrifuges to enrich uranium. Although the C.I.A. position appears to be the dominant view, officials said some experts had questioned whether Iraq might not be seeking the tubes for other purposes, specifically, to build multiple-launch rocket systems.

Specifically, Washington officials said, some experts in the State Department and the Energy Department were said to have raised that question. But other, more senior, officials insisted last night that this was a minority view among intelligence experts and that the C.I.A. had wide support, particularly among the government's top technical experts and nuclear scientists.

���This is a footnote, not a split,��� a senior administration official said.��� [Author���s emphasis]


The suggestion that the government���s top technical experts and nuclear scientists supported the CIA was a flat-out lie.


The DOE���s September 13 paper was potentially devastating for the administration���s product launch. One day earlier, the IC had begun work on a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq���s WMD programs. The NIE had not been requested by the White House. Instead, members of the Senate intelligence committee had had to invoke a rarely used senatorial authority to order its production. An NIE is the product of the entire Intelligence Community and is supposed to be its most comprehensive and authoritative assessment on a particular issue. Now, days into the administration���s product launch, the IC���s nuclear experts had come out against the key piece of evidence in the case for Iraq���s gas centrifuge reconstitution. There were no assessments that concluded the tubes could be used as centrifuge rotors without considerable modification, other than the ���personnel��� assessment and Military Intelligence Digest supplement. Both of these were now over a year old and had also been extensively criticised. NESA���s limited one-page outline did not address the tubes dimensions. It was not going to cut it for the majority position in an NIE.


The CIA informed the administration of the dilemma on September 14 in a Senior Executive Memorandum, Key Milestones in Our Assessments of Iraq���s Nuclear Program. The paper noted the debate over the tubes��� intended use and also that ���Iraq���s denial and deception programs and the lack of human intelligence have resulted in intelligence gaps.��� (RS, p. 203). In President Bush���s weekly radio address the same day, he did not mention the Iraqi tubes per se. Instead, he referred only to the uranium enrichment ���equipment��� Iraq had sought.


Two days later, the CIA provided another Senior Executive Memorandum, Details About Our Assessments on Iraq���s Nuclear Program Since 1991. The document explained that ���Iraq���s persistent interest in high-strength aluminum tubes ��� complemented by magnet production and machine tool and balancing machine procurement efforts ��� is key to our current assessment that Baghdad is reconstituting its centrifuge program.��� (RS, p. 200). [Author���s emphasis] The tubes were the key to reconstitution. Without the tubes, the NIE would not have a nuclear section. The product launch would stall if congress called the administration���s honesty into question. There might not be a war.


The CIA would have to get the right answer: the tubes were suitable for centrifuges without modification. The CIA would have to act fast. The CIA would have to turn to a red team.


Part 5: The Red Team


In mid-September, Joe the WINPAC analyst contacted CIA���s Counter Proliferation Division (CPD) for assistance in testing the tubes. (RS, p. 206) CPD recommended an individual from a group of ���contractors��� who had been providing CIA with ���broad-based technical advice���. (SSCI, p. 93). The Robb-Silberman Commission refers to the contractors as a red team. (RS, p. 211)


The red team���s assessment would be the basis of CIA WINPAC���s first extensive analysis of the tubes, published on September 30 with the unequivocal title, Iraq���s Hunt for Aluminium Tubes: Evidence of a Renewed Uranium Enrichment Program. (The title of the red team���s assessment is classified.) (RS, pp. 206; 211). The WINPAC paper would provide the majority position of the aluminum tube section of the NIE (SSCI, p. 93), although the NIE coordination meeting would take place on September 25 ��� five days before the WINPAC paper was published. The NIE, Iraq���s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, was published just one day after the WINPAC paper, on October 1, 2002.


The red team began their analysis of the tubes on September 16. They were supplied with a ���stack of documents��� from the CIA and a sample aluminum tube for ���visual examination��� (RS, p. 211). The red team was not briefed by DOE analysts or provided with any of DOE���s assessments. One member had been given a tutorial on 81mm rockets by a DOE analyst months earlier, but said that the conversation had been ���pretty meaningless��� at the time (SSCI, p. 94). The red team was, however, provided with NGIC���s analysis of the tubes (it is unclear whether this was a new analysis by NGIC or this was the same text box from the November, 2001, Military Intelligence Digest supplement). The Senate Intelligence Committee would find later that the red team had been provided only with information that supported the assessment that the tubes were intended for gas centrifuges (SSCI, p. 138).


On September 17, one day after receiving CIA���s ���stack��� of documents, the red team completed its report. The assessment gave the CIA the conclusion it was looking for: ���the tubes are consistent with design requirements of gas centrifuge rotors.��� (SSCI, p. 94). The tubes could be used in a gas centrifuge. The NIE assessed that the 900 mm tubes would only have to be cut in half to make two 400mm rotors (RS, p. 210). The DOE���s position that the tubes would require extensive modification before being suitable for centrifuge rotors, was relegated to a minority dissent (RS, p. 210).


The red team���s assessment was, of course, flat wrong. The red team had resurrected and combined arguments from the July 2, 2001 ���personnel��� assessment and the November 30, 2001 MID supplement. According to the red team, the tubes could be used in centrifuges because their dimensions resembled rotors for both Joe���s Zippe Frankenstein and the Beams centrifuge (SSCI, p. 109). The internal diameter matched Zippe���s 3��� rotor. The external diameter matched Zippe���s 4��� rotor. The length and wall thickness matched the Beams rotor. The red team claimed that the Iraqis were constructing some kind of Zippe-Beams hybrid centrifuge.


A Zippe-Beams hybrid centrifuge would never have enriched a gram of uranium in a million years. However, the red team appear to have been unaware of this, or perhaps unconcerned. Regardless, the team���s mission was accomplished. The CIA received the answer the administration wanted. The majority position of the NIE assessed that the tubes could be used as centrifuge rotors without modification.


Because of the red team���s report, NGIC was able to argue in the NIE that the tubes��� tolerances were ���excessive��� and it was therefore highly unlikely they were intended for a rocket program (SSCI, p. 100). If the DOE had provided the NIE���s majority position, the tubes��� tolerances would have been irrelevant whatever they were. DOE had assessed that the tubes could not be used in gas centrifuges without first thinning their walls. If the wall thickness had to be decreased by one to two millimeters before the tubes could be used, then there was no point specifying the tolerance to 0.1 millimeters. The Robb-Silberman Commission found that NGIC���s position gave ���greater confidence��� to analysts who had judged the tubes were intended for centrifuges (RS, p. 56). If the tubes��� walls had to have been machined, then the tolerance of the tubes ��� and NGIC���s argument ��� would have been erased.


WINPAC���s September 30 paper, Iraq���s Hunt for Aluminum Tubes, was based on the red team���s analysis and provided the NIE���s majority position on the aluminum tubes. However, the WINPAC assessment was not the only finished intelligence product that was published around that time. DIA published its own assessment of the tubes in Iraq���s Reemerging Nuclear Weapons Program, which also concluded the tubes were most likely intended for a gas centrifuge program (SSCI, p. 93). The exact publication date of the DIA paper is uncertain. The report of the Robb-Silberman Commission references many intelligence assessments and almost all of them are cited along with the month, day and year they were published. Unfortunately, the DIA paper is only ever cited to ���Sept. 2002��� (e.g. RS, pp. 205; 206), except in one instance when the date is given as ���Aug. 7, 2002��� (RS, p. 209). For its part, the SSCI report only ever refers to the publication of DIA���s assessment in ���September, 2002��� (e.g. SSCI, p. 95). Whenever it was published, DIA���s ���September��� assessment provided the rest of the NIE���s nuclear reconstitution section that had not been provided by WINPAC���s paper of September 30 (SSCI, p. 95).


The September DIA and WINPAC papers shared a number of key arguments. Like the NESA assessment, Iraq: Expanding WMD Capabilities Pose Growing Threat published on August 1, 2002, both DIA and WINPAC concluded that the tubes��� material ��� 7075-T6 aluminum ��� suggested a nuclear end-use (RS, p. 67; SSCI, p. 93). Both DIA and WINPAC referenced NGIC���s assessment that the tubes were highly unlikely to be intended for rocket motor bodies (RS, p. 67; 206). Most importantly, both DIA and WINPAC concluded that the tubes��� specifications were consistent with gas centrifuge rotor designs (SSCI, p. 93). There was, however, a subtle difference between the two assessments. For the WINPAC paper, the red team combined arguments from the ���personnel��� assessment from July, 2001 and the November, 2001 MID supplement to concoct a Zippe-Beams ���hybrid��� centrifuge. The DIA paper, on the other hand, stated just that the tubes��� ���specifications [were] consistent with late-1980s Iraqi gas centrifuge rotor designs��� (SSCI, p. 93). [Author���s emphasis] Like the MID supplement, the DIA paper compared the Iraqi tubes to the Beams design only.


I suspect that the red team was behind both DIA���s ���September��� paper and DIA���s MID supplement. When CIA���s CPD requested that the red team assist Joe���s ���testing��� of the tubes on September 16, they were provided each others��� research. Joe and the red team combined their assessments for WINPAC���s September 30 paper and thus provided the majority position on the tubes in the October NIE. If Joe and the ���personnel��� were also part of a red team (and I suspect that they were), then the NIE���s tubes analysis was a red team exercise from start to finish.


The DIA���s ���September��� paper and MID supplement have one additional element in common besides both being likely red team assessments. The ���September��� paper is classified SCI as well (RS, p. 206).


Part 6: Conclusion


A red team fixed the aluminum tubes around the policy of pre-emptive war with Iraq. The DOE, the Intelligence Community���s centrifuge experts, assessed in August, 2001 that the tubes Iraq had been trying to import did not match any known centrifuge design. In fact, the tubes could not be used in a centrifuge program without substantial modification. In September, 2002, with the product launch for war in full swing and Bush administration officials terrorizing America with talk of smoking guns and mushroom clouds, the unexpected NIE threatened to establish DOE���s assessment as the Intelligence Community���s majority position. The red team was brought in to assume what it was supposed to prove: that Saddam had an active gas centrifuge uranium enrichment program. The red team���s analysis became the basis of the WINPAC paper that became the basis of the tubes majority position in the October NIE. The fix was in.


The October NIE���s nuclear section was crucial in convincing congress to authorise war with Iraq if certain conditions were met. House Joint Resolution 114  passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives on October 10 and then in the Senate on October 11. The conditions in the resolution meant the Bush administration did not have a ���blank check��� for war, however. The return of weapons inspectors to Iraq and the Bush administration���s consequent wrangling with the UN would delay the war until March, 2003. But even with conditional congressional approval, the die had been cast: war was now inevitable. Many representatives and senators have stated publicly that fear of a nuclear armed Iraq was the determining factor in their ���yea��� vote. How many would have voted for the resolution if they���d known the NIE���s nuclear section had been based on the work of a red team? How many even know what a red team is?


The Bush administration wants people to believe that the Intelligence Community had two competing, equally plausible hypotheses on Iraq���s intended purpose for the aluminum tubes. It wants people to believe that they had two groups equally expert in centrifuge uranium enrichment, each with sound arguments supporting their divergent views. It wants people to believe that their only mistake was to err on the side of caution and listen to the wrong group. In reality, the experts were ignored in favor of intelligence ���Creationists���. The red team twisted the facts to fit a pre-conceived belief instead of forming a belief based on the facts. The red team���s task was to conclude that Iraq had an active nuclear program; whether this was actually true was irrelevant.. Truthful and accurate National Intelligence Estimates are vital for preserving the security of the United States. For this reason, National Intelligence Estimates should never be written by red teams.


In 2005, the Robb-Silberman Commission recommended the appointment of a Director of National Intelligence with the authority to assign red teams ���on a case-by-case basis��� (RS, p. 407). This is disturbing because now any future administration that wants to fix intelligence around policy will not have to clumsily ���shoehorn��� red teams into the NIE process as the Bush administration did in September, 2002. Instead, the Director of National Intelligence will be able to provide an assessment that assumes whatever an administration wants to prove. Fixing intelligence around policy is now even easier.





Intelligence Analysis, SCI and Red Teams


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Uranium Enrichment and Iraq���s Gas Centrifuge Program


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[*] The table provides the tubes��� specification and includes the ���tolerances��� specified for the tubes��� internal and external diameters in parentheses. Tolerances are specifications referring to how precisely a product���s dimensions need to be manufactured. For example, if the Iraqi tubes specified an external diameter of 81.0mm with a tolerance of +0/-0.1, this means the tubes would be acceptable if the external diameter was manufactured between 81.0mm and 80.9mm.

* Blanks represent a lack of specific data.