U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell shared signals intelligence with the U.N. Security Council Wednesday showing Iraq’s willfull coverup of their WMD program.
Powell spoke quickly and forcefully as he made the U.S. case
“I cannot tell you everything that we know. But what I can share with you, when combined with what all of us have learned over the years, is deeply troubling,” Powell said.
• Powell began by playing audiotapes of what he said were two Iraqi officials discussing an upcoming inspection by U.N. officials.
“They are inspecting ammunition you have… for the possibility there are forbidden ammo,” said a voice Powell identified as an Iraqi official in the U.S. translation. “We sent you a message yesterday to clean out the areas, scrap areas, abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there.”
Powell called the recordings “part and parcel of a policy of evasion and deception that goes back 12 years.”
• Powell also showed a satellite photograph of what he said was an active chemical weapons bunker.
He said the photograph showed Iraqi officials cleaning out the bunkers ahead of another inspection. Other photographs showed caravans of trucks at other suspected chemical weapons and ballistic missile sites just two days before inspections resumed.
• Powell said that the United States has learned through human intelligence sources that Saddam Hussein warned Iraqi scientists that there would be “serious consequences” to them and their families if they provide sensitive information to inspectors and that scientists were forced to sign documents that said they understood that divulging information was punishable by death.
• Powell said four different sources have said that Iraq has built sophisticated, mobile biological weapons production and research facilities that could be used to make anthrax, ricin and other agents. He said that Iraq had at least seven of the mobile facilities that could be concealed on 18 trucks.
• Powell said U.S. intelligence believes Iraq has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons and 16,000 battlefield rockets, and that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has authorized field commanders to use them.
He said Iraq has failed to account for four tons of VX nerve gas – adding that a single drop of the chemical can kill a person.
“We have evidence these weapons existed,” he told the U.N. Security Council. “What we don’t have is evidence from Iraq that they have been destroyed or where they are.”
• Powell said that Iraq had designed its chemical weapons program to make it easier to conceal from inspectors. He said that at some sites, Iraqis used bulldozers to scrape away the topsoil at suspected sites to hide chemicals that would be absorbed into the ground.
“Everything we have seen and heard indicates that, instead of cooperating actively with the inspectors to ensure the success of their mission, Saddam Hussein and his regime are busy doing all they possibly can to ensure that inspectors succeed in finding absolutely nothing,” Powell said
One U.S. official said that the information Powell presented was costly because it revealed some sources of intelligence, but he added, “What good is intelligence if you don’t use it.” He said there were several last-minute decisions not to release some material because of concern for the safety of U.S. troops.
CIA Director George Tenet sat behind Powell at the horseshoe-shaped Security Council table. A senior State Department official said Tenet’s presence was “part of the credibility of the whole package” # a “personal endorsement” of Powell’s message.
At the other end of the table, Mohammed Aldouri, Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations, listened to Powell’s presentation and waited for his chance to respond. Aldouri is expected to give a speech, but only after the 15 members of the Security Council have addressed the world body. (Interactive:Member nations’ positions on Iraq)
Twelve foreign ministers were also present for the meeting in the most anticipated live television presentation there since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. U.N. officials said there will be more television feeds than usual, with one camera dedicated to Powell and another for his presentation items.
After Powell spoke, each member nation was given an opportunity to speak for six to eight minutes apiece. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the two chief U.N. weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei, also attended but are not expected to speak. (Interactive: Speakers following Powell)
The Bush administration has not committed to seeking a second Security Council resolution on Iraq. But the goal after Powell’s presentation is to gauge support for a new resolution that would:
• Declare that Iraq failed to keep its commitment to honor Security Council Resolution 1441 and set a deadline for Iraqi compliance;
• Give the U.N. blessing for military action if the deadline passes.
President Bush met with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders Wednesday morning to discuss Powell’s presentation.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair also reiterated the stance supported by the United States and Britain while answering questions from the House of Commons.
“I believe our case on weapons of mass destruction is very, very clear indeed. It’s perfectly obvious Saddam has them,” Blair said. “The U.N. has asked him to give them up. He is not giving them up at the moment.