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US Defense Intelligence:  Never Any Doubt About Iraq's WMD Program - 2003-06-06

A top U.S. defense intelligence official says his agency never had doubts that Iraq had a weapons of mass destruction program, despite news media reports to the contrary. The official met with members of Congress Friday as some lawmakers question whether the Bush administration manipulated U.S. intelligence to justify the war against Iraq.

Top defense intelligence officials sought to clarify news accounts that the Pentagon's intelligence agency last September reported it had 'no reliable information' that Iraq had a chemical weapons program.

Such a program was a key reason cited by the Bush administration for going to war against Baghdad.

Defense Intelligence Agency Director, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, said the sentence was taken out of context.

"It is a sentence lifted out of the text," he said. "The single sentence was not intended to summarize the program. So what we are saying is, that in 2002 in September, we could not reliably pin down for someone who was doing contingency planning, specific facilities, locations, or production that was underway at a specific location at that point in time."

But Admiral Jacoby said his agency had no doubt about the existence of a weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq.

Defense officials say the Pentagon intelligence report is just one of many sources of information on Iraq.

Admiral Jacoby and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Stephen Cambone, met with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss the search for Iraqi chemical and biological weapons.

U.S. officials have yet to find any such weapons, and that has raised questions among some lawmakers about the justification for war.

"Iraq's weapons of mass destruction remain a mystery and a conundrum," said Senator Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat.. "What are they, where are there, how dangerous are they? Or were they a manufactured excuse by an administration eager to seize a country?"

U.S. officials express confidence that evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program will be uncovered in due course.

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Senator John Warner, a Virginia Republican, agrees, but says there will be Congressional hearings into the matter.

"It is going to take time, it is going to take patience, and I assured them on the Senate side, we are very carefully going through a review of the process and asking the questions," he said.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the Pentagon will cooperate with the congressional probes.