Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Here's your WMD

WMD's in Iraq? According to Senator Rick Santorum, there are documents which describe WMD discoveries that started in 2003. You and I didn't hear about them, because they were classified. He held a little press conference today to discuss the declassified summary about the discoveries.

Senator Santorum Makes Major Announcement Regarding Newly Declassified Information Concerning Chemical Weapons Discovered in Iraq

June 21, 2006
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, joined Congressman Peter Hoekstra, (R-MI-2), Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, today to make a major announcement regarding the release of newly declassified information that proves the existence of chemical munitions in Iraq since 2003. The information was released by the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, and contained an unclassified summary of analysis conducted by the National Ground Intelligence Center. In March, Senator Santorum began advocating for the release of these documents to the American public.

“The information released today proves that weapons of mass destruction are, in fact, in Iraq,” said Senator Santorum. “It is essential for the American people to understand that these weapons are in Iraq. I will continue to advocate for the complete declassification of this report so we can more fully understand the complete WMD picture inside Iraq.”

Here is the gist of the report (online at Foxnews):

• Since 2003 Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent.

• Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.

• Pre-Gulf War Iraqi chemical weapons could be sold on the black market. Use of these weapons by terrorists or insurgent groups would have implications for Coalition forces in Iraq. The possibility of use outside Iraq cannot be ruled out.

• The most likely munitions remaining are sarin and mustard-filled projectiles.

• The purity of the agent inside the munitions depends on many factors, including the manufacturing process, potential additives, and environmental storage conditions. While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal.

• It has been reported in open press that insurgents and Iraqi groups desire to acquire and use chemical weapons.

So several hundred devices which were presumably in Saddam Hussein's stockpile of illegal WMD's - which may (or may not) have been around since Gulf War I, and are still likely to be lethal - were found in the past 2 years and no one thought we needed to know about it.

Listening to Sen. Santorum, it sounded like there is a lot more behind this limp little summary. As Hugh says, he tip-toed carefully around what he could and couldn't say - but the implication is that the meat of the data will have a much greater impact than these few lines.

HH: Well, you've made some news today, and I'd like to explore with you what exactly was being said, because we can't find the tape. Evidently, you've got some declassified information detailing 500 different shells containing prohibited weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But let me ask you, what did you announce today?

RS: What we announced was that after two and a half months of being aware of this document, we were able to get a copy of the document, and convince the intelligence community to give us a declassified version of the document. It is a very short synopsis, and I would argue incomplete synopsis, but nevertheless, it's vitally important, because what it does say, and I'll quote from it, "since 2003," so since the Iraq War, "coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain mustard or sarin nerve agent."

HH: Who is the document from, Senator Santorum, and to whom was it addressed?

RS: It's from the National Ground Intelligence Center, which is a division of the United States Pentagon. I think it's the Army.

HH: Okay. And to whom was it addressed?

RS: Well, it's a classified report. It's just a report that they published. It's not addressed to anybody. It's a report which is a survey of ongoing recovery of chemical munitions. And what they go on to say is, and I'll quote again from the summary, not the classified report, "despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq's pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist beyond the 500 that they have recovered."

HH: Now of these 500 shells that they have recovered, Senator Santorum, does the document, the unclassified version, tell you in how many batches they were discovered? Was it one? Was it 50 of 100, or one of 500?

RS: You know, I can't talk about what additionally it tells you. All I can tell you is there have been published reports on blog sites about this report...and the published reports say that 75% of these 500 or so weapons were in fact filled and usable, and very dangerous for the...if got to improper hands.

Full transcript and downloadable audio at RadioBlogger

So there were more than 500 found, and the intel points to more. Why not declassify this before now? Hugh has a couple of ideas.

Chapomatic adds to the discussion over at Milblogs. Austin Bay wants to know more as well.