Friday, May 30, 2003
Secret Transcripts Reveal - Powell and Straw had doubts about WMDs
UK Guardian Blockbuster -- Jack Straw and his US counterpart, Colin Powell, privately expressed serious doubts about the quality of intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons programme at the very time they were publicly trumpeting it to get UN support for a war on Iraq, the Guardian has learned.
Their deep concerns about the intelligence - and about claims being made by their political bosses, Tony Blair and George Bush - emerged at a private meeting between the two men shortly before a crucial UN security council session on February 5.
The meeting took place at the Waldorf hotel in New York, where they discussed the growing diplomatic crisis. The exchange about the validity of their respective governments' intelligence reports on Iraq lasted less than 10 minutes, according to a diplomatic source who has read a transcript of the conversation.
The foreign secretary reportedly expressed concern that claims being made by Mr Blair and President Bush could not be proved. The problem, explained Mr Straw, was the lack of corroborative evidence to back up the claims.
Much of the intelligence were assumptions and assessments not supported by hard facts or other sources.
Mr Powell shared the concern about intelligence assessments, especially those being presented by the Pentagon's office of special plans set up by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz.
Mr Powell said he had all but "moved in" with US intelligence to prepare his briefings for the UN security council, according to the transcripts.
But he told Mr Straw he had come away from the meetings "apprehensive" about what he called, at best, circumstantial evidence highly tilted in favour of assessments drawn from them, rather than any actual raw intelligence.
Mr Powell told the foreign secretary he hoped the facts, when they came out, would not "explode in their faces".
The Waldorf transcripts are all the more damaging given Mr Powell's dramatic 75-minute speech to the UN security council on February 5, when he presented declassified satellite images, and communications intercepts of what were purported to be conversations between Iraqi commanders, and held up a vial that, he said, could contain anthrax.
Let's see it explode.
Previously I had linked that Powell lied or mislead about 40 times in the UN speech. I think this was a link.