Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report

Scope Note



This report relays Iraq Survey Group’s findings from its creation in June 2003 until September 2004 and provides context and analysis to ISG’s physical findings. It also attempts to place the events in their Political-Military context. For the purposes of this report, the term Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) refers to the definition established by the United Nations Security Council in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 687 (1991).

The United States’ investigation of Iraqi WMD activities began during Operation Iraqi Freedom itself. In prewar planning, it was assumed chemical and possibly biological stocks were likely to be encountered and perhaps employed. Forces were equipped with protective equipment. A military unit designated Expeditionary Task Force-75 (XTF-75) was deployed during the war to investigate suspected locations for WMD stocks. Many sites were inspected but with an aim of discovering WMD, not inspecting and developing an analytical assessment of the Iraqi programs. Wartime conditions prevailed with concern about force protection primary. The work of XTF-75 was therefore aimed at discovery of possible WMD locations (to eliminate a threat), not the compilation of evidence to build a picture of what happened to the weapons and programs.

This early approach, perhaps logical if the goal was simply to find hidden weapons, undermined the subsequent approach of piecing together the evidence of the Iraqi WMD programs such as they existed. In fact, combined with the chaos of the war and the widespread looting in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, it resulted in the loss of a great amount of potentially very valuable information and material for constructing a full picture of Iraqi WMD capabilities. Sites were looted. Documents were either ignored or collected haphazardly or burned by either the Regime or Coalition forces.

To begin a more systematic collection of evidence to build an understanding of Iraqi WMD programs, DOD stood up ISG under the military command of Major General Keith Dayton. He brought together a unique blend of collection, analytic, and force maneuver assets to conduct both the ongoing WMD investigation and secondary tasks that included counterterrorism and the search for Captain Scott Speicher, a US Navy pilot shot down in 1991 during Desert Storm. Elements of ISG included:

Analytic Staff—Experts in the functional areas of Iraqi WMD from the CIA, DIA, DOE, State, DOD, as well as United Kingdom and Australia gathered and analyzed data to develop a picture of Iraq’s WMD program and plan further collection. Several participants were former United Nations inspectors with long experience in Iraq.

Documentation Exploitation—A forward linguistic element in Baghdad (approximately 190) identifies documents of immediate importance from the millions recovered in the course of the war and occupation. A large facility housing more than 900 staff members in Qatar recorded, summarized, and translated documents. At the time of this writing, this facility houses about 36 million pages that have been scanned into a database. Roughly a third of these—all that appeared of direct relevance to ISG’s mission—have been examined by a linguist and a gist prepared.

Recently, ISG obtained about 20,000 boxes of additional documents, which had been stored in Coalition-occupied buildings. Many of these documents are from the Iraqi Intelligence Service and the Baath party. This is a volume roughly equivalent to the total received to date—a huge infusion. Triage of these documents will probably take several months. New information will inevitably derive from this process, but may not materially affect the overall elements of this report.

Interrogation and Debriefing—ISG had dedicated linguists and debriefers for the so-called High Value Detainees. Statements by former key players in the Regime formed an important information source, but must be evaluated very cautiously since the prospect of prosecution inevitably affected what they said. It is also important to understand that the population of senior detainees held at the Camp Cropper facility interacted freely among themselves. They could consult on what they were asked, and the pressures and tensions among detainees over cooperation with ISG certainly affected their candor. In addition, debriefers were not experts in the field of Iraq or WMD as a general rule. ISG compensated by having subject matter experts present as often as possible.

  • Technical Analysts—Two laboratories, one British and one American, analyzed materials suspected of being related to WMD. Samples included nerve agent rounds, mustard shells, and a wide range of dangerous chemical substances.

  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal—A team was always on hand to deal with unexploded ordnance hazards—a regular feature of the Iraqi landscape

  • Movement Forces—A collection of teams to provide transportation and protection for ISG investigators.

  • HUMINT Collection Teams—Case officers to establish connections to individuals useful to the investigation of WMD infrastructure, security, and other support.

  • Support Staff—Base security, logistics, communications, computers, housing, food, etc.

  • National Geospatial Agency and National Security Agency representatives were also a part of ISG to bring analytic and technical collection assistance to the investigation.

The Director of Central Intelligence provided additional analytic and collection support and named a senior Special Advisor for Iraqi WMD to provide direction to the overall effort. David Kay was the first Advisor, serving in Iraq from June until December 2003. Under his direction, ISG began a systematic survey and examination of the existence and location of WMD capabilities. Dr. Kay provided an initial report to the DCI in September 2003 on the early findings of the investigation. Under his leadership, ISG interviewed many key participants in the WMD programs, undertook site visits, and began the review of captured documents. Under Dr. Kay, ISG focused on leads from Iraqi sources, documents, and physical evidence. Dr. Kay believed that, if ISG were to find any WMD in Iraq, the Iraqis would probably have to lead ISG to it.

Work in Iraq was very difficult. Contrary to expectations, ISG’s ability to gather information was in most ways more limited than was that of United Nations inspectors. First, many sites had been reduced to rubble either by the war or subsequent looting. The coalition did not have the manpower to secure the various sites thought to be associated with WMD. Hence, as a military unit moved through an area, possible WMD sites might have been examined, but they were left soon after. Looters often destroyed the sites once they were abandoned.

A second difficulty was the lack of incentive for WMD program participants to speak with ISG investigators. On the one hand, those who cooperated risked retribution from former Regime supporters for appearing to assist the occupying power. On the other hand, there was substantial risk that the Coalition would incarcerate these individuals. Hence, for the most part, individuals related to Iraqi WMD tried to avoid being found. Even long after the war, many Iraqi scientists and engineers find little incentive to speak candidly about the WMD efforts of the previous Regime. This is exacerbated by their life-long experience of living with the threat of horrible punishment for speaking candidly.

The third constraint was the growing risk from the insurgency. From roughly November 2003 onward, it was very difficult to simply travel to points of interest by investigators. Armored cars and protection by military units were required. Many ISG armored vehicles were damaged or destroyed by hostile fire or improvised explosive devices, and two military personnel lost their lives assisting the investigation, SGT Sherwood R. Baker and SGT Lawrence A. Roukey.

A fourth hurdle was that, given the difficult conditions existing in Iraq, many individuals had little interest in remaining in Iraq for a lengthy time, and typically an analyst would come to ISG for only a couple of months, which produced great inefficiencies: Individuals would become familiar with certain Iraqi issues and then depart. Many detainees were interviewed multiple times by a number of analysts seeking answers to the same question. The only ISG member who was present from the beginning until the drafting of this report was the ISG Chaplain.

Despite these obstacles, a core of knowledge was built, and some long-term Iraqi experts became key members of the ISG team. Several were former UN inspectors with over a decade of experience with the Iraqi WMD programs and, indeed, the Iraqi participants in WMD programs. Their background and knowledge were invaluable. For example, it is much more difficult (though still quite possible) for Iraqis to deceive investigators they had known for 10 years or more. At any given time, ISG staff included approximately 15 to 20 Iraq WMD experts, though as time went on, it became more difficult to retain a truly expert cadre.

A timeline methodology was used to integrate key elements of the analysis and to assist the building of the corporate knowledge base. Through regular meetings of all functional teams, analysis of the range of events that interacted with respect to WMD was conducted. This work was much aided by the regular participation of Saddam’s debriefer. Relevant data points were identified and manipulated on a timeline tool, and major inflection points that related to Saddam and WMD were established. These were then used by teams, especially the Regime Strategic Intent team, to cue further analysis and to develop their respective portions of the report.

Looking to the future, there will continue to be reports of WMD-related material that must be addressed. Virtually every week some WMD-related report—often involving the delivery of items thought to be WMD-related—is received and investigated by ISG. This is a continuous task that often requires the removal of dangerous objects (like mortar rounds or dangerous chemicals). This element of ISG work accounts for much of the effort of many of the staff during the past 18 months. The necessary investigation of all reasonable leads has led to dozens of missions that have been important, though they have found no significant stocks of WMD. Such missions have included, for example, extensive underwater searches using sophisticated sensor equipment in Iraqi lakes and rivers.

Since there remains the possibility (though small) of remaining WMD, such reports will continue to be evaluated and investigated as judged necessary.

Sources of Information

Iraqi detainees were a major source of information. Many WMD-associated figures have been detained at Camp Cropper where the so-called high-value detainees are incarcerated. Analysts questioned them repeatedly about aspects of the program and Regime decisionmaking. Their answers form a large part of the data ISG has used in this report, but must be considered for what they are. These individuals have had long experience living under a severe Regime that imposed harsh consequences for revealing state secrets and have no way of knowing what will happen to them when they get out. Certainly there are strong Regime supporters among the Camp Cropper population. The word inevitably circulates among them who is cooperative and who is not. Once released, such detainees may fear for their lives from Regime supporters.

Another consideration is that many senior Regime figures are concerned about prosecution and will shape their tales to serve their interests. There is a tendency, for example, to blame the dead guy—for example Saddam’s son Qusay or son-in-law and former top weapons development manager, Husayn Kamil.

On the other hand, some of these individuals have been long-term technocrats with no particular love of the Regime. Of these, some have been quite helpful, particularly with former inspectors whom they have known well over the years. Nevertheless, it must also be remembered that their perspectives, even if honestly conveyed, may not reflect the views of the Regime leadership. It has also been the case that with the Regime’s hypersecurity measures, compartmentalization was quite extensive. For example, many very senior Iraqis did not know whether Iraq had WMD or not before the war.

The documentation that ISG has accumulated is extensive. It has yielded important nuggets, which pop out as linguists make their way though the massive amount of material. The magnitude of the task is huge and complicated by the potential of errors in transliteration or in the original documents. Since it is impossible to forecast when relevant documents will be found in this largely unordered collection, it may well be that documents or electronic media may emerge that could significantly add to the themes and background presented here.

A vital part of the picture of how the Regime proceeded with respect to UN sanctions is illustrated in its implementation of the Oil for Food program. We received much detailed information from the Iraqi Oil Ministry, State Oil Marketing Organization, and individual participants. The data presented here are intended only to demonstrate the tactics and strategy of the Regime. Iraq sought to influence these data links to many countries and individuals. This report stops at that point. The report does not intend to analyze or assess the implications for non-Iraqis. Participation in Iraq’s voucher system may have been perfectly legal and appropriate depending upon the circumstances. Others are charged with investigating these transactions. What is clear is that the Regime sought to reward and influence using this tool.

Physical inspection of sites has been pursued to the extent possible. This is a dangerous activity under the circumstances of 2004: We had two fatalities, and ISG teams have been shot at many times with some serious injuries. Many armored cars have been destroyed in attacks. This has made site investigations more difficult.

Moreover, many locations associated with the previous WMD programs and sites under monitoring by the United Nations have been completely looted. In fact, the sites that filled the database of monitored locations are radically different postwar. Equipment and material in the majority of locations have been removed or ruined. Often there is nothing but a concrete slab at locations where once stood plants or laboratories.

A final consideration of the work of ISG concerns the return of sovereignty to Iraq. Since 28 June 2004, Iraq has been responsible for its own territory, and that includes matters associated with WMD questions. ISG has been consulting with the Interim Iraqi Government (IIG) concerning its work. Gradually, more cooperation in investigatory work can take place. It is a natural transition of responsibility and knowledge to the new government.

WMD concerns are not merely of historic interest. ISG chemical weapons (CW) and counterterrorism experts uncovered and tracked down an active insurgent group that had been using former Regime CW experts to attempt to create and use CW for use against the Coalition. This was dubbed the Al Abud network after the location of the first raid where insurgents were found attempting to acquire ricin. A very aggressive investigation by ISG and a series of raids have apparently been successful in containing this threat. This has been a major success, but will require sustained attention by both Coalition and IIG since terrorists have long demonstrated an intention to obtain WMD and use it. This could occur inside or outside Iraq.

While the future size and direction of the Iraq Survey Group are currently under review, the requirement remains to collect further information related to threats posed by residual elements of the former Regime’s WMD programs. There will also be new information from individuals and sources, which will come to light. Moreover, certain defined questions remain unanswered. For example, we cannot express a firm view on the possibility that WMD elements were relocated out of Iraq prior to the war. Reports of such actions exist, but we have not yet been able to investigate this possibility thoroughly. Likewise, there remains some uncertainty concerning reports of mobile BW capabilities—though we have conducted an extensive investigation and we have a paucity of confirmatory information, there is still some possibility that such a capability did exist.

As new information becomes available and is analyzed and assembled into meaningful packages, further unclassified additions to this report may be issued.

This report addresses the actions and considerations of the Regime until it fell in April 2003. It attempts to show the WMD programs and their context. It combines analysis of both physical evidence and an examination of the considerations of the Regime leadership with regard to WMD. The report is not intended to be predictive but should provide data from which others may consider such questions and indeed, consider implications for other circumstances elsewhere.



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