In October of 2002, 9 months before the US-led invasion of Iraq, the CIA produced a document summarizing relevant intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s chemical and biological weapons programs. The document became the basis for the Bush Administration’s public statements about the extent of Saddam’s WMD program and was also distributed to members of Congress.
The intelligence estimate was used to support the Bush administration’s case that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program represented an imminent threat, which became perhaps the leading justification for the US-led war.
An expurgated version of the document was released as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request in 2004. But it wasn’t until last year that a transparency activist named John Greenwald was able to obtain the intelligence estimate in its entirety. Greenwald provided the document to Jason Leopold of Vice News, which published it with analysis on March 19th.
The document determines that Saddam Hussein had an active chemical weapons program — although crucially, the CIA couldn’t prove that his regime had actually resumed producing chemical and biological agents and cast doubt on the actual extent of Saddam’s program.
The intelligence estimate also heavily qualified its evidence of any link between Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda, noting that the sources were not entirely reliable.
The full document allows for a comparison of the CIA’s actual findings with both the Bush administration’s pre-war claims, and later post-war assessments of Saddam’s actual WMD capabilities.
In December, the RAND Corporation issued a
report that stated the CIA assessment “contained several qualifiers that were dropped … As the draft NIE went up the intelligence chain of command, the conclusions were treated increasingly definitively.”
Consequently, the findings shed much-needed light on one of the most important events in recent US and Middle Eastern history.
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