"American and British intelligence analysts with direct access to the evidence are disputing claims that the mysterious trailers found in Iraq were for making deadly germs," reports the New York Times' Judith Miller and William Broad. "In interviews over the last week, they said the mobile units were more likely intended for other purposes and charged that the evaluation process had been damaged by a rush to judgment."
"Everyone has wanted to find the 'smoking gun' so much that they may have wanted to have reached this conclusion," said one intelligence expert who has seen the trailers and, like some others, spoke on condition that he not be identified. He added, "I am very upset with the process."The Bush administration has said the two trailers, which allied forces found in Iraq in April and May, are evidence that Saddam Hussein was hiding a program for biological warfare. In a white paper last week, it publicly detailed its case, even while conceding discrepancies in the evidence and a lack of hard proof.Now, intelligence analysts stationed in the Middle East, as well as in the United States and Britain, are disclosing serious doubts about the administration's conclusions in what appears to be a bitter debate within the intelligence community. Skeptics said their initial judgments of a weapon application for the trailers had faltered as new evidence came to light.This story is significant both for what it says, and for who is saying it. For months, Miller has been the media's lead cheerleader on Iraq's WMD programs. Under a highly unusual arrangement with the U.S. military, which gets to vet her stories, she's passed along rumors fed to her by Iraqi National Congress chief Ahmad Chalabi. Miller's stories are still getting the military once-over. But now, she has new sources -- ones in American and British intelligence.THERE'S MORE: "In (a) report last September, the Defense Intelligence Agency said it could find no reliable information to indicate that Iraq had any chemical weapons available for use on the battlefield. But the agency also said Iraq probably had stockpiles of banned chemical warfare agents," according to the Associated Press.AND MORE: In a separate article, the AP says, "The Bush administration distorted intelligence and presented conjecture as evidence to justify a U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a retired intelligence official who served during the months before the war."AND MORE: One Defense Tech reader -- who works in military intelligence -- thinks that the story above is disingenuous."You can usually always find one analyst who will disagree with official and published analytical reports," he writes. "It bothers me that the media seems to be searching out those dissenters and presenting them as a 'Gotcha', which leads me to believe that perhaps they have an agenda at work (i.e. Making Bush look bad)."Even the "retired intelligence official" quoted in the article "thought there were WMD to be worried about," he notes.
Thielmann said he had presumed Iraq had supplies of chemical and probably biological weapons. He particularly expected U.S. forces to find caches of mustard agent or other chemical weapons left over from Saddam's old stockpiles."We appear to have been wrong," he said. "I've been genuinely surprised at that."AND MORE: The Guardian breaks down the reasons why these trailers, at least, weren't for biowar.