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October 07, 2004


Herb Ely

Thanks for your comment – and for the link to the CDC report. When I used the word “elaborate”, I was thinking of the kind of program a conventional military must use if they want to be trained and ready to use a new weapon. In the case of a WMD these programs must be even more thorough. As such, they are more easily detectable by intelligence. The Aum Shinrikyo case is instructive. Terrorist organizations can conduct extensive WMD programs – especially if they can get help from a country that already has such programs in existence. This is the threat that should have occupied most of the Bush administration’s attention prior to the war. Had they done so, they might have taken actions other than a large-scale invasion. It was not necessary to document the presence of Al Qaeda. There were other terrorist organizations in contact with Saddam.

All of this, of course, is analysis done with the benefit of hindsight.
You are right. There is a risk in reaching conclusions before all of the evidence is in. This morning’s news about nuclear materials found in Iraq is only more evidence of this. However, there is another side to the question: The right answer, gathered after all the evidence has been collected and evaluated, but delivered late to the decision maker, is useless.

Further evidence may change my basic conclusion: the intelligence community was so focused on proving the existence of Iraqi WMD programs that it failed to assess the progress of these programs. (The intel analysts had to assume that they could be fooled again. Saddam had concealed much of his nuclear program during the 80’s.)


as an analyst, you know the inaccuracies of making conclusions before all the evidence is in.
did not dalfeur on cspan mention that they had triaged 400,000 documents with 450,000 to go?
did you catch the cns article which stated they had 42 pages of documents which showed hussein had wmd? don't know cns creditability so i can't verify.
just some more fodder for your article. looks forward to it

Jim Holman

The lesson of the Tokyo subway attack is not that " terrorist threat can be mounted without elaborate WMD programs." Rather, the lesson is that if you want to stage a terrorist attack, you can get everything you need in-country, as we have seen time and again. Aum Shinrikyo actually had an elaborate WMD program, but built and funded internally.

I discuss this issue on my blog at

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