from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 10
January 30, 2004


Confronted by mounting evidence that the threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was massively overstated, President Bush has been unwilling or unable to admit error.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a gathering threat to America and others," he said this week. "That's what we know."

Pressed by reporters for a response to weapons inspector David Kay's statement that pre-war intelligence on Iraq had been wrong, the President could do no more than repeat:

"There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a grave and gathering threat to America and the world. There is just no doubt in my mind."

The "gathering threat" formulation may be a speechwriter's allusion to the first volume of Winston Churchill's history of World War II, "The Gathering Storm."

But if so, the dignity of this borrowed rhetoric rapidly became an embarrassment, as it was parroted no less than half a dozen times by the White House press spokesman on January 28:

In retrospect, it now appears that Saddam Hussein was more of a receding threat than a "gathering" one. His military forces had never fully recovered from the first Gulf War or the effects of UN sanctions, and his regime was riddled with corruption.

Yet Congress was told as a factual matter that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them even to the United States, recalled Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) this week.

"I was looked at straight in the face and told that [Iraqi] UAVs could be launched from ships off the Atlantic coast to attack eastern seaboard cities of the United States," he said. "Is it any wonder that I concluded there was an imminent peril to the United States?" See:

A new report from the non-governmental British American Security Information Council examines the record of pre- and post-war evidence of Iraqi weapons programs and forcefully critiques US and UK intelligence assessments on Iraq.

See "Unravelling the Known Unknowns: Why no Weapons of Mass Destruction have been found in Iraq" by David Isenberg and Ian Davis, BASIC, 2004:


Rep. Jane Harman, the moderate ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, this week rebuked the Committee chairman, Rep. Porter Goss, for violating his commitment to openly deliberate a pending resolution on the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity.

"As one committed to honoring the long tradition of careful bipartisan stewardship of the intelligence community by our Committee, the Chairman's actions are deeply disappointing to me," she said in a January 28 news release.

"Careful, bipartisan oversight is what the men and women of the IC deserve, and, sadly, they were let down today," Rep. Harman said. See:


The origins of the state secrets privilege apparently derive from English common law and certainly predate the 1953 Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Reynolds. Therefore it was an error to write (SN, 01/26/04) that the Reynolds decision "established" the state secrets privilege. (Thanks to MB.)

It should have been noted that the 2004 intelligence budget information published by the French government (SN, 01/28/04) is far from complete. Thus, it explicitly excluded certain military intelligence and hardware expenditures. Moreover, close students of French intelligence say there are indications of other, irregular forms of intelligence financing that leave no trace in official budget records. (Thanks to HOB.)


Out of miles of declassified files, an old U.S. Army publication called "Intelligence Review" recently surfaced. Intelligence Review was a classified journal published after World War II and prepared by the Army's Military Intelligence Service.

The first issue, dated 14 February 1946, explored a diversity of topics and regional conflicts.

One paper with current resonance, bluntly entitled "Islam: A Threat to World Stability," examined the dynamics of Islamic politics as perceived at the time. Another paper, "Wheat: Key to the World's Food Supply," addressed a global food shortage in 1946.

See Issue 1 of Intelligence Review (80 pages, 3.7 MB PDF file) here:


A 1954 U.S. Army intelligence report viewed with admiration "a significant achievement in French military footwear design."

The intelligence report, originally classified Confidential and cleared for release in 1999, noted that the French "armored-sole shoe" provided an effective defense against the concealed barbs and spikes used by Viet Minh forces in Indochina.

See "French Develop Shoe with Puncture-Proof Sole to Reduce Foot Casualties in Indochina," which appeared in the April-May 1954 edition of the Army's Intelligence Review, here:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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