Magazine article Newsweek

Intelligence: No U.S. Sources Inside Saddam's Inner Circle

Magazine article Newsweek

Intelligence: No U.S. Sources Inside Saddam's Inner Circle

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Hosenball

One problem the CIA had in gathering prewar intelligence about Iraq was a lack of inside sources. In a little-noticed passage in his Feb. 5 Georgetown University speech, CIA Director George Tenet said: "We did not have enough of our own human intelligence. We did not ourselves penetrate the inner sanctum." This means the CIA had none of its own agents--informants controlled and paid directly by Washington--in Saddam's inner circle before the war. Officials who deal with the CIA suggest that until the Bush administration began large-scale U.S. troop deployments in countries neighboring Iraq a few months before the war, the CIA had few if any of its own informants anywhere in Iraq. An intelligence official insists the CIA did have informants in Iraq, such as the agent who tipped off the United States to Saddam's alleged location the night President George W. Bush first ordered airstrikes against Baghdad leadership targets.

To make up for the CIA's lack of its own informants, Tenet acknowledged that the agency relied on "emigres and defectors with more direct access to WMD programs." But the CIA has conceded that the credibility of some of these sources, whose info was used by Colin Powell to claim to the United Nations that Saddam was building mobile germ-warfare labs and factories, is now deeply suspect. Tenet said other key sources were two purported Iraqi insiders whose information came to the CIA via friendly foreign intelligence agencies. One of these sources, described by Tenet as having "direct access to Saddam and his inner circle," said Iraq did not have nukes and was ineffectively "dabbling" in germ warfare, but was stockpiling chemical weapons and had mobile missiles armed with chemical warheads that could be fired at Israel. …

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