Last week I mentioned Joshua Marshall's take on the strange and terrible saga of Iraqi nuclear scientist Mahdi Obeidi. Now Newsweekweighs in with more, suggesting that the Bush Administration may still be manipulating intelligence on Iraq's so-called nuclear program.
[F]or the Bush administration, things quickly began to go wrong with the Obeidi story. True, Obeidi said he’d buried the centrifuge equipment, as he’d been ordered to do in 1991 by Saddam’s son Qusay Hussein and son-in-law Hussein Kamel. But he also insisted to the CIA that, in effect, that was that: Saddam had never reconstituted his centrifuge program afterward, in large part because of the Iraqi tyrant’s fear of being discovered under the U.N. sanctions-and-inspections regime. If true, this was a terribly inconvenient fact for the Bush administration, after months in which Secretary of State Colin Powell and other senior officials had alleged that aluminum tubes imported from 11 countries were intended for just such a centrifuge program. Obeidi denied that and added that he would have known about any attempts to restart the program. He also told the CIA that, as the International Atomic Energy Agency and many technical experts have said, the aluminum tubes were intended for rockets, not uranium enrichment or a nuclear-weapons program. And he stuck by his story, despite persistent questioning by CIA investigators who still believed he was not telling the full truth.
Soon, not only was Obeidi no longer a marquee name for the Bush team, he was incommunicado. Whisked off to a safe house in Kuwait, with no access to phones or the Internet, he waited in vain for what he thought had been offered to him: asylum in the United States and green cards granting permanent residency to him and his eight-member family.
...[Former U.N. inspector David] Albright and others suggest that, with the Obeidi case, the message being sent by the Bush administration to Iraqi scientists being interrogated in Iraq is a troublesome one: if you don’t tell us what we want to hear, you won’t be rewarded. In fact, things might even get a little unpleasant for you. As Albright points out, provisional green cards can be arranged very quickly; among those so favored, for example, was the Iraqi man who tipped off the U.S. military to the whereabouts of Pfc. Jessica Lynch. “I think they’re just keeping him under wraps,” said Albright.
The treatment of Obeidi has in turn raised questions about whether even fresh intelligence from Iraq is being manipulated in advance of the report being prepared by David Kay, which is intended as the definitive account of Iraq’s WMD program. One Capitol Hill legislator told NEWSWEEK that the administration’s plan is to put out a vast compilation of data about Saddam’s decades-long effort to build weapons of mass destruction and “hope the issue will go away.” And several Democrats say they are disturbed by what Sen. Dianne Feinstein told NEWSWEEK was the “very vague and nonprecise” nature of Kay’s testimony when he appeared at closed sessions of two congressional committees last week. “Signs of a weapons program are very different than the stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons that were a certainty before the war,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “We did not go to war to disrupt Saddam’s weapons program, we went to disarm him.” President Bush himself in late July said Kay would require a long time to analyze “literally the miles of documents that we have uncovered.”
Jeez, when the press begins to act like actual journalists, the Bush Administration doesn't look too good, does it? Of course, that raises the question of why it ever did...