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E. Intelligence Agencies' Analysis on Reconstitution Prior to Publication of the NIE

(U) The assessment that Iraq had begun reconstituting its nuclear program was a new Community assessment in 2002, but individual IC agencies began to change their assessments about the nuclear program more gradually, beginning in 2001, as new intelligence reports began to come into the IC.

(                )As mentioned previously, the CIA began assessing that the aluminum tubes "have little use other than for a uranium enrichment program" as early as April 10, 2001 (SEIB-1-083CHX) - almost immediately after the detailed intelligence reports on Iraq's attempts to procure 60,000 aluminum tubes started coming to the IC. The April 2001 assessment also suggested that the tubes, and purchases of other dual use items, such as magnets and specialized balancing equipment, could revive Iraq's nuclear program. The CIA produced about a dozen more assessments of the aluminum tubes and their applicability in Iraq's nuclear program over the course of the next year.

(U) It is clear from the CIA's finished intelligence that the procurement of aluminum tubes and other dual use equipment was key to the CIA shifting its position on reconstitution of Iraq's nuclear program. The CIA wrote in January 2002, that "Procurement activities detected in the past year are consistent with Iraq attempting to jump-start a clandestine uranium enrichment program to produce fissile material needed to make a nuclear weapon, potentially by late this decade:" (SPWR011102-02) On March 12, 2002, the CIA published a Senior Executive Memorandum which assessed that "Iraq currently may be trying to reconstitute its gas centrifuge enrichment program" and on the same day the CIA said "Iraq could develop enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by mid-to-late decade." (SPWR0312020-07) In August 2002, the CIA published a paper titled Iraq: Expanding WMD Capabilities Pose Growing Threat in which it assessed that "Iraq's procurement of nuclear-related equipment and materials indicates it has begun reconstituting its uranium enrichment gas centrifuge program to produce fissile material for a nuclear device, a process that could be completed by late this decade." The same paper later noted, "Iraq's persistent interest in high-strength aluminum tubes indicates Baghdad has renewed an indigenous centrifuge uranium enrichment program." The CIA's nuclear analysts also told Committee staff that the aluminum tube procurement was the principal part of the agency's assessment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program.

(U) On April 11, 2001, almost immediately after the reports on Iraq's procurement efforts came to the IC, the DOE assessed that the aluminum tubes were likely not intended for Iraq's nuclear program. The DOE noted that "While the gas centrifuge application cannot be ruled out, we assess that the procurement activity more likely supports a different application, such as conventional ordnance production." The DOE continued to assess that the tubes were intended for the Nasser 81 rocket program in numerous assessments throughout the next year.

(U) Despite the DOE's assessment that the tubes were not intended for Iraq's nuclear program, DOE analysts did note other intelligence in their assessments that led them to believe Iraq may be reconstituting its nuclear program. On August 17, 2001, in an intelligence paper (TIN000064) the DOE assessed that "Iraq is engaged in activities, such as establishing a permanent magnet production capability, that could be preliminary steps intended, at least in part to support a gas centrifuge program restart. However, we cannot determine from information now available whether or when Iraq may have begun program reconstitution in earnest or if it intends to do so in the immediate future." On July 22, 2002, the DOE assessed that Iraq's efforts to procure magnets, Saddam's meetings with Iraq's nuclear scientists, and possible Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium from Niger suggest "that Saddam Hussein is seeking to reconstitute Iraq's nuclear weapons program."

(U) The DIA first assessed that the aluminum tubes could be part of Iraq's nuclear program on August 2, 2001. The background paper outlined the CIA's assessment that the tubes were suitable for an uranium enrichment program and also explained the DOE's assessment that the tube's thickness, length, and anodized finish made it more likely they were for other uses. The paper indicated that "DIA analysts found the CIA presentation to be very compelling." The DIA wrote little else on the procurements of aluminum tubes or other dual use items until it published a large defense intelligence assessment on "Iraq's Reemerging Nuclear Weapon Program" in September 2002. This assessment became the basis for most of the nuclear section of the October 2002 NIE on Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction.19 The DIA paper used the term "revitalized" rather than "reconstituted" to refer to Iraq's nuclear efforts saying "Iraq revitalized its nuclear weapon efforts after the departure of UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors in December 1998."

(U)INR did not publish intelligence papers on Iraq's procurement of aluminum tubes or papers indicating its position on nuclear reconstitution until after publication of the NIE. A draft of an in-depth analysis paper on the aluminum tubes issue was provided to the NIC staff prior to the NIE, so the NIC would be aware of INR's position. The finished paper was published on October 9, 2002.


19 The aluminum tube section of the NIE was taken from a September 2002 CIA assessment, Iraq's Hunt for Aluminum Tubes: Evidence of a Renewed Uranium Enrichment Program.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias