Patterico's Pontifications


Since I’m on the subject, and Christy mentioned the Aluminum Tubes issue, I thought I’d mention what George Tenet had to say in his Memoirs on the issue:

Filed under: General — WLS @ 6:30 pm

Posted by WLS:

From Pg. 324-25:

“In early 2001, Iraq had been caught trying to clandestinely procure sixty thousand high-strength aluminum tubes manufactured to extraordinarily high tolerances. The tubes were seized in the Middle East. The Iraqi agent tried in vain to get the tubes released, claiming they were to be used in Lebanon to make race car components. Whatever their intended use, under UN sanctions, Saddam was prohibited from acquiring the tubes for any purpose. All agencies agreed that these tubes could be modified to make centrifuge rotors used in a nuclear program. CIA analysts believed that these tubes were intended for the enrichment of uranium. Others thought they were intended to make rockets. To test this theory, CIA brought together a “red team” of highly experienced experts from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory — people who had actually built centrifuges. Their assessment was that the tubes were more suited for nuclear use than anything else. The Department of Energy’s representative to the NFIB [National Foreign Intelligence Board — creators of the National Intelligence Estimate] delivered his own agency’s assessment that the tubes were probably not part of a nuclear program. He was not a technical expert, however, and, despite being given several opportunities, he was unable to explain the basis for his department’s view in anything approaching a convincing manner. About all we could take from his statement was that DOE did not disagree with the assessment that Saddam was trying to revive or “reconstitute” his nuclear weapons program — a program that was withing months of producing a weapon when it was interrupted at the time of the first Gulf War…..

With more time, I’m certain we would have delayed a decision on the aluminum tubes until greater clarification emerged — we were staring at a jumbled mess, basically — but in the end, the majority of agencies believed that the tubes were part of the evidence of nuclear reconstitution. But there was certainly no unanimity of thought.

The dissenting views were clearly and extensively laid out in the report. Not only did the Estimate make that point, but Colin Powell would go on to underline it in his UN speech the following February.”

I know there is lots of information and judgments made with the benefit of hindsight that the tubes were not ideally appropriate for use in nuclear facility, and were more likely destined for use in the production of rockets. But, you have to judge the Admin. for the judgment it made at the time it made it based on the information it had available.

14 Responses to “Since I’m on the subject, and Christy mentioned the Aluminum Tubes issue, I thought I’d mention what George Tenet had to say in his Memoirs on the issue:”

  1. Sure

    60,000 race car components.
    For Lebanon.
    The race car manufacturing empire of Lebanon as asserted by the Iraqi guy.
    I had no idea that Lebanon was responsible for like 90% of the worlds racing cars, but now… thanks to someone who is evidently related to Baghdad Bob… I do.

    I wonder if bald faced lies make people more suspicious rather than less?
    Saddam and his Iraqi mouthpieces lied and lied and lied…. even when the truth would have saved them they chose to lie

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  2. WLS – They made their decision based on the information available at the time. So many of the bushliedpeopledied folks, use newly developed information as their proof of alleged lies many years prior. Given the information available when these decisions were made, a good chunk of Dems agreed, or rather, showed no political spine and voted for the war, because they thought that their actual views would not serve them well in the elections. Once those pesky elections were out of the way, it was Katie, bar the door.

    JD (e88f7b)

  3. Amusingly, I still hear BDS sufferers cite the aluminum tubing claim as a proven Bush admin lie.

    SPQR (6c18fd)

  4. Yes, well, it’s not as if Slam Dunk Tenet doesn’t have a dog in this fight.

    The White House last week said attempts by Iraq to acquire the tubes point to a clandestine program to make enriched uranium for nuclear bombs. But the experts say in a new report that the evidence is ambiguous, and in some ways contradicts what is known about Iraq’s past nuclear efforts. The report, from the Institute for Science and International Security, also contends that the Bush administration is trying to quiet dissent among its own analysts over how to interpret the evidence. The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, was authored by David Albright, a physicist who investigated Iraq’s nuclear weapons program following the 1991 Persian Gulf War as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection team. The institute, headquartered in Washington, is an independent group that studies nuclear and other security issues.[snip] According to Albright, government experts on nuclear technology who dissented from the Bush administration’s view told him they were expected to remain silent. Several Energy Department officials familiar with the aluminum shipments declined to comment. [emphasis added]

    And again,

    But almost a year before, Ms. Rice’s staff had been told that the government’s foremost nuclear experts seriously doubted that the tubes were for nuclear weapons, according to four officials at the Central Intelligence Agency and two senior administration officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. The experts, at the Energy Department, believed the tubes were likely intended for small artillery rockets.

    The White House, though, embraced the disputed theory that the tubes were for nuclear centrifuges, an idea first championed in April 2001 by a junior analyst at the C.I.A. Senior nuclear scientists considered that notion implausible, yet in the months after 9/11, as the administration built a case for confronting Iraq, the centrifuge theory gained currency as it rose to the top of the government.

    And yet again

    However, a set of technical experts from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge, Livermore, and Los Alamos National Laboratories reviewed the CIA analysis and disagreed with this interpretation because the tube dimensions were far from ideal for this purpose. In fact, the dimensions and the aluminum alloy were identical to those of tubes acquired for rockets by Iraq in the 1980s. Furthermore, the Iraqis had developed and tested centrifuges before the first Gulf War that were much more capable than those that could have been built with the imported tubes.

    The DOE experts also pointed out that if these tubes were actually intended for centrifuges, there should be evidence of attempts by the Iraqis to acquire hundreds of thousands of other very specific components, but no such evidence existed. This critique of the CIA interpretation was seconded by the State Department’s intelligence branch and, independently, by an international group of centrifuge experts advising the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

    Tenet seems to have left out a number of scientific reports against his position, doesn’t he?

    We cite the aluminum tubes case as a Bush lie because, well, it is. How remarkable that the 24-percenters revel in having been snow-jobbed into war.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (3e9cb8)

  5. Nice try, Andrew.

    It doesn’t matter what the purpose of the tubes was. Under UN sanctions, Iraq had no business having them at all, meaning even if Saddam wanted to use them as planters in one of his palaces, the mere possession of the tubes constituted a violation.

    Remarkable how the anti-war zealots “forget” such facts.

    Paul (66339f)

  6. Andrew – You are now hereby officially to be called one of the “eleven percenters”. Enjoy.

    JD (e88f7b)

  7. The CIA’s Aluminum Tubes’ Assessment: Is the Nuclear Case Going Down the Tubes?

    By David Albright

    March 10, 2003, Rev. 1

    I think this is DRJ’s Syrian nuke story guy.

    My respect for him increases proportionately

    alphie (99bc18)

  8. From the ISIS website:

    David Albright, a physicist, is President of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington, D.C.

    In 1996, Albright was appointed to the Department of Energy Openness Advisory Panel, which operates under the auspices of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board.

    From 1990 to 2001, Albright was a member of the Health Advisory Panel appointed by Colorado Governor Roy Romer.


    Can see why alphie has respect for him.

    Gerald A (1761a5)

  9. ” the mere possession of the tubes constituted a violation.”


    blah (74fc41)

  10. “nope”

    Oh, well…you’ve convinced me!

    Pious Agnostic (64737a)

  11. Passive Fence Sitter,
    Do some research.
    Get to work.

    Here’s a good link for a discussion about where we are now. It’s just general, not about the tubes; that was settled long ago.

    blah (74fc41)

  12. ” the mere possession of the tubes constituted a violation.”



    The Security Council passed Resolution 687 as part of the cease-fire arrangements ending operation Desert Storm. The resolution, among other things, required Iraq to rid itself permanently and unconditionally of all nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons capabilities and allow inspectors full access to verify and monitor compliance. The resolution established a monitoring and inspection mechanism UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) to ensure Iraqi compliance. Resolution 687 also linked a decision to lift sanctions with Iraq’s fulfillment of the disarmament provisions. The resolution was passed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, meaning that military force could be used to enforce compliance.

    Don’t believe that link? Read UN Resolution 687 yourself.

    From Andrew’s third link, which he quoted:

    In fact, the dimensions and the aluminum alloy were identical to those of tubes acquired for rockets by Iraq in the 1980s.

    Guess what that description makes the tubes?


    As for attemting to acquire the tubes, here is:
    UN Resolution 715
    UN Resolution 1051
    and its monitoring mechanism.

    Passive Fence Sitter,
    Do some research.
    Get to work.

    Next time make sure your arguments are airtight before you issue such a challenge.

    Paul (66339f)

  13. All the “back and forthing” on this is besides the point. The question is what was the CONSENSUS position in the fall and winter of 2002-03? Tenet says ALL AGENCIES AGREED that he tubes could be MODIFIED to make centrifuge rotors — i.e., they were dual use regardless of what their primary purpose.

    Tenet says that even the Energy Dept. agreed there were signs of nuclear program reconstitution, and these tubes could not be ignored even if they were more suited for other uses.

    When the NIE constituent agencies met, only the DOE expressed a contrary opinion, but their representative could not articulate it in a persuasive manner to the other agencies in the room.

    The dissenting views were in the NIE for all to read.

    But, is a policy maker expected to side with the consensus or a couple of dissenters from the consensus BEFORE it is known which side is actually correct?

    wls (fb8809)

  14. AJL – Not very impressive sourcing for the meat of your articles. The first one is a think tank, the Institute for Science and International Security which was not involved in the actual decision making process. The second is a NY Times article relying on four anonymous CIA sources and two anonymous DOE sources. Interestingly, though, in the body of the article, the following three paragraphs are found which basically contradict your thesis:

    “One senior official at the agency said its “fundamental approach” was to tell policy makers about dissenting views. Another senior official acknowledged that some of their agency’s reports “weren’t as well caveated as, in retrospect, they should have been.” But he added, “There was certainly nothing that was hidden.”

    Four agency officials insisted that Winpac analysts repeatedly explained the contrasting assessments during briefings with senior National Security Council officials who dealt with nuclear proliferation issues. “We think we were reasonably clear about this,” a senior C.I.A. official said.

    A senior administration official confirmed that Winpac was indeed candid about the differing views. The official, who recalled at least a half dozen C.I.A. briefings on tubes, said he knew by late 2001 that there were differing views on the tubes. “To the best of my knowledge, he never hid anything from me,” the official said of his counterpart at Winpac.”

    The tird article, a reprint from the Union of Concerned Scientists is essentially a rehash of portions of the first and other material that fails to shed more light on the subject.

    AJL, I don’t think you’ve debunked what you think you’ve debunked here, once again. Great Greenwaldian link with the Times piece!

    daleyrocks (906622)

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