NBC News reported this evening that Naji Sabri, Iraq’s Foreign minister under Saddam Hussein, served in the period leading up to the US invasion, as a paid informant to the CIA.
NBC News’ informants sound rather like the usual gang of leaking, pouting spooks endeavoring to inflict revenge on the Bush Administration for past policy differences. NBC’s informants are described as “Intelligence sources” speaking “on condition of anonymity.”
The goal of these revelations is apparently to make public information in the possession of US Intelligence prior to the invasion testifying to Saddam’s not possessing weapons of mass destruction.
For example, consider biological weapons, a key concern before the war. The CIA said Saddam had an “active” program for “R&D, production and weaponization” for biological agents such as anthrax. Intelligence sources say Sabri indicated Saddam had no significant, active biological weapons program. Sabri was right. After the war, it became clear that there was no program.
Another key issue was the nuclear question: How far away was Saddam from having a bomb? The CIA said if Saddam obtained enriched uranium, he could build a nuclear bomb in “several months to a year.” Sabri said Saddam desperately wanted a bomb, but would need much more time than that. Sabri was more accurate.
On the issue of chemical weapons, the CIA said Saddam had stockpiled as much as “500 metric tons of chemical warfare agents” and had “renewed” production of deadly agents. Sabri said Iraq had stockpiled weapons and had “poison gas” left over from the first Gulf War.
Both Sabri and the agency were wrong. NBC tells us. But, since NBC News has neglected to look in Syria, I’m afraid I’m not willing to take their word on that one.
It’s kind of sad when your own leak, even partially, supports your opponent’s case, and damages your own: Sabri said Iraq had stockpiled weapons and had “poison gas” left over from the first Gulf War.
But, at least, a poor pouting spook can count on his media allies to bang down the gavel, and declare him right in the end.
It might be the fact that NBC News was selected as the venue for the leak that is the most interesting detail here, really. It may indicate that some previously favored media allies are, at this point beginning to get the wind up, are thinking of possible legal consequences to themselves, and are currently less eager to cooperate than they have been in the past.