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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Washington File

27 June 2003

Powell Confident Mobile Labs in Iraq Used for Biological Weapons

(Powell, Spanish Foreign Minister Palacio remarks after their meeting) (1800)
After meeting at the State Department June 26, Secretary of State
Colin Powell and Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio responded to
journalists' questions on the reported arrest of a major Al Qaeda
operative in Saudi Arabia, continued U.S. casualties in Iraq, and the
debate in the U.S. intelligence community over the interpretation of
mobile laboratories found in Iraq.
Powell opened the briefing by relating that his discussions with
Palacio focused on Iraq, Afghanistan and U.S. relations with the EU.
He refused to confirm the capture of a prime suspect in the May 12
Riyadh bombings but said that "if it turns out to be true, we'll be
very, very pleased."
Asked about continuing U.S. casualties in Iraq, Powell expressed
confidence in the ability of the U.S. military "to do everything they
can to wipe out these pockets of resistance, whether they are old
Saddamites and Ba'athists, or Fedayeen, or just criminal elements who
are doing it, but it's going to take some time and determination."
The rest of the questions concerned the interpretation of mobile labs
found in Iraq. Powell said he has "confidence in the judgment of the
CIA that they are for the purpose of developing biological weapons."
Following is the State Department transcript:
(begin transcript)
Office of the Spokesman 
June 26, 2003
June 26, 2003
C Street Entrance Washington, D.C.
(6:10 p.m. EDT)
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is,
again, a great pleasure to have my colleague and good friend Ana
Palacio here, the Foreign Minister of Spain. And we've had a good
discussion on the issues of interest to us: Iraq, Afghanistan,
relations with the EU. I briefed her on the EU Summit that was held
here yesterday and expressed again our condolences for the loss the
Spanish soldiers who were serving their nation and serving the cause
of peace.
The relationship between the United States and Spain, as you all well
know, is very, very close. I think it reflects in the relationship
that Foreign Minister Palacios and I have, and that our two Presidents
have, as well. And so, Madame Minister, it is always a great pleasure
to have you here.
FOREIGN MINISTER PALACIO: Well, the pleasure is mine and I have very
little to add. We have, as each time; each and every time had a very
good discussion. I have learned and well, we will -- or at least I
will answer your questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you have any reaction to the arrest of the
prime suspect in the Riyadh bombings? And do you know whether he was
captured or whether he gave himself up?
SECRETARY POWELL: We haven't received confirmation of that information
yet. If it turns out to be true -- and I don't have the details,
therefore, -- but if it turns out to be true, we'll be very, very
pleased and -- that this terrorist has been brought to justice. But I
can't confirm it yet and therefore, I also can't confirm the details
of the situation.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, increasingly every day, including today,
American soldiers are being shot and killed in Iraq. Are you alarmed
by this, the increasing incidents of these shootings? And what can we
do to keep our troops safe from these ambushes?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it's a dangerous situation, still. We are
working hard to improve security: security for the population as well
as security for our troops. But we always knew that it would be
dangerous and it would take time. And I am confident in the ability of
our military authorities to do everything they can to wipe out these
pockets of resistance, whether they are old Saddamites and Ba'athists,
or Fedayeen, or just criminal elements who are doing it, but it's
going to take some time and determination. And we will take the time
and will apply the determination and military and police power to do
QUESTION: But are you alarmed that it seems to be unrelenting and
increasing each day?
SECRETARY POWELL: We are concerned, obviously, and we're working hard
to deal with the problem. And I have confidence in the Department of
Defense and the military commanders who are working on this issue.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you alluded to this in your presentation to
George Schultz about members of the State Department who voiced
dissent in terms of pressure that they might have felt to tailor any
evidence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Do you think that
this went on in the Department? And what do you think of Mr.
Westermann's speaking and, through Congress, speaking out about any
pressure that he felt?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. There are always debates about intelligence
subjects. You get information in, and there are debates. And Mr.
Westermann was in a debate with other members of the Department on
some of the intelligence information. And when he was asked about it,
he said that he felt that he was under pressure at that time.
I think what's important to note, though, is that he didn't find that
there was any need to yield to that pressure, and he didn't change any
of his opinions or any of his assessments. And I called his superior
yesterday to make sure that -- Carl Ford, the Director of INR -- and I
called Mr. Ford to make sure that he communicated to Mr. Westermann
that I was pleased that when asked a question by a member of the
Congress, he honestly answered that question, and he should not feel
that he is either under any pressure or any threat for having done
what he was morally required to do as a member of the Department.
QUESTION: Are you afraid that, perhaps, the State Department
analysts', intelligence analysts' opinions are given short shrift by
other members of the administration?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, not at all. My -- if you're referring to the
other story that was in The New York Times today, the INR Bureau
advised me on 2 June, as the story said, that they didn't have the
same level of assurance and confidence in what the intelligence
community was saying about the mobile labs as the intelligence
community did.
They weren't disagreeing with the intelligence community in the sense
that they weren't saying it wasn't a mobile lab. They just were not
quite up on that curve of confidence that the rest of the intelligence
community was at. And so when they reported this to me as they should
-- they are supposed to tell me things like this when they have a
judgment of this nature -- and I immediately had -- I was in the
Middle East -- and I immediately had my Deputy, Rich Armitage,
communicate this point of view to the Director of Central
Intelligence. And the factors that caused my folks to have not quite
the same level of confidence were known to the intelligence community
and the DCI and were factored into their assessment. And the DCI, who
is the person who makes the final judgment on such matters, felt
confident about the judgment that he had made. And I felt confident
about the judgment that he had made, but I appreciated the fact that
the experts in my Department were expressing their opinion to me. And
that opinion was taken into account, and it was passed to the
intelligence community for them to take that opinion into account.
That's the way this system is supposed to work, and I am pleased that
it worked that way.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, but do you feel that political pressure has
been put on you --
SECRETARY POWELL: What political pressure?
QUESTION: Any political pressure?
QUESTION: -- information?
SECRETARY POWELL: No. You're leading the witness. I'm the one who went
to the United Nations on the 5th of February and presented the
intelligence case that the United States had developed. And as we saw
from some of nuclear information that came out yesterday, which you've
all had a chance to see, slowly but surely, we are providing more
evidence. I don't know that we needed more evidence, but we're
providing evidence on the ground that makes the case that we made that
What I said that day with respect to the nuclear account, the nuclear
problem, was that they had brain power, they had plans, and they had
never lost sight of their goal, which was to develop a nuclear weapon,
and if they ever had the chance to restart, they would restart. And
that's what I presented. And we talked about the centrifuges, and I
said there are two schools of thought about the centrifuges. We have
one. Others have another. Let us continue to examine this issue.
And frankly, from what I've seen in the following months on that
issue, anyway, I think the presentation holds up, and I have never
felt that I have been under any political pressure to say anything
that was not supported by the intelligence community or that I didn't
The President asked me to go and make that presentation. And I did,
and I think it's a presentation that will stand the test of time.
QUESTION: (Question in Spanish.)
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are those analysts in INR Bureau now as
confident as the CIA was that the mobile vans are, in fact, for
biological warfare?
SECRETARY POWELL: Their confidence level is increasing. They still
have some questions, and those questions are well known to the CIA.
But I have confidence in the judgment of the CIA that they are for the
purpose of developing biological weapons. It's been studied very
thoroughly. But we're -- there are still some questions that are being
looked at and analyzed. And Carl Ford has been out to the CIA to share
all of the ideas and judgments and different alternative
considerations that should be applied to the analysis.
And so we have been in complete open analysis with, you know, having a
complete open analysis with the CIA, and the Director of Central
Intelligence remains confident of his judgment. And frankly, I haven't
seen anything to suggest that that judgment is wrong. And so we are
sticking with the judgment of the DCI. He is the one who has the best
position to analyze all of the information and to make this judgment.
And INR participates in the work of the intelligence community, but
ultimately, it is the DCI who makes the judgment.
Thank you.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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