Saturday, August 20, 2005

Former aide: Powell WMD speech 'lowest point in my life'

A former top aide to Colin Powell says his involvement in the former
secretary of state's presentation to the United Nations on Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction was "the lowest point" in his life.

"I wish I had not been involved in it," says Col. Lawrence Wilkerson,
a longtime Powell adviser who served as his chief of staff from 2002
through 2005. "I look back on it, and I still say it was the lowest
point in my life."

Wilkerson is one of several insiders interviewed for the CNN Presents
documentary "Dead Wrong -- Inside an Intelligence Meltdown." The
program, which airs Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET, pieces together
the events leading up to the mistaken WMD intelligence that was
presented to the public. A presidential commission that investigated
the pre-war WMD intelligence found much of it to be "dead wrong."

Powell's speech, delivered on February 5, 2003, made the case for the
war by presenting U.S. intelligence that purported to prove that
Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Wilkerson says the
information in Powell's presentation initially came from a document he
described as "sort of a Chinese menu" that was provided by the White

"(Powell) came through the door ... and he had in his hands a sheaf of
papers, and he said, 'This is what I've got to present at the United
Nations according to the White House, and you need to look at it,'"
Wilkerson says in the program. "It was anything but an intelligence
document. It was, as some people characterized it later, sort of a
Chinese menu from which you could pick and choose."

Wilkerson and Powell spent four days and nights in a CIA conference
room with then-Director George Tenet and other top officials trying to
ensure the accuracy of the presentation, Wilkerson says.

"There was no way the Secretary of State was going to read off a
script about serious matters of intelligence that could lead to war
when the script was basically un-sourced," Wilkerson says.

In one dramatic accusation in his speech, Powell showed slides
alleging that Saddam had bioweapons labs mounted on trucks that would
be almost impossible to find.

"In fact, Secretary Powell was not told that one of the sources he was
given as a source of this information had indeed been flagged by the
Defense Intelligence Agency as a liar, a fabricator," says David Kay,
who served as the CIA's chief weapons inspector in Iraq after the fall
of Saddam. That source, an Iraqi defector who had never been debriefed
by the CIA, was known within the intelligence community as

After searching Iraq for several months across the summer of 2003, Kay
began e-mailing Tenet to tell him the WMD evidence was falling apart.
At one point, Wilkerson says, Tenet called Powell to tell him the
claims about mobile bioweapons labs were apparently not true.

"George actually did call the Secretary, and said, 'I'm really sorry
to have to tell you. We don't believe there were any mobile labs for
making biological weapons,'" Wilkerson says in the documentary. "This
was the third or fourth telephone call. And I think it's fair to say
the Secretary and Mr. Tenet, at that point, ceased being close. I
mean, you can be sincere and you can be honest and you can believe
what you're telling the Secretary. But three or four times on
substantive issues like that? It's difficult to maintain any warm


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