Monday, October 30, 2006

Written Answers

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Amir al-Saadi

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Norman Baker (Lewes, Liberal Democrat):

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information she has received regarding the whereabouts of Dr. Amir al-Saadi; and when and where definitive sightings of him reported to her were.

Kim Howells (Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office):

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not have information about Dr. Amir al-Saadi's whereabouts.

Thursday, 12 October 2006

Norman Baker (Lewes, Liberal Democrat):

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contact the UK Government has had with Dr Amir al-Saadi following his release by the US authorities on 18 January 2005.

Kim Howells (Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office):

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not had contact with Dr Amir al-Saadi following his release.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Joseph Goebbels

'you could almost say a Goebbels type unit'

This is part four of Luke Ryland's interview with Rod Barton:

Judy Miller

Luke Ryland: I presume that you came across Judy Miller

Rod Barton: Yes - I know Judy Miller quite well

LR: Your thoughts?

RB: I’d rather not comment

LR: OK... Some of my friends are curious about the relationship between David Kelly and Judy

RB: Well - they certainly met quite frequently - just as Judy and I met. You see, officially, David Kelly, Dick Spertzel, Hamish Killip and I were the team that discovered Iraq's biological program. Judith Miller was very interested in what we were doing - and the UN gave her permission to interview us - and she wrote a major front page article in the NYT about us. That's how we got to know her.

LR: When was that?

RB: 1996, I think. We discovered the biological weapons program in 1995 - and so we were told to cooperate. It was good publicity for the UN. Judith continued to talk to us on several matters after that and of course we feature in her book Germs. So we continued to have contact with her - and David became friendly with her, as did I. We were all in New York and she'd often ask us about various things - if we were working for the UN we wouldn’t tell her because we didn’t want to lose our jobs - but she'd sometimes ask us about other countries - just to seek our technical expertise - on Libya or Iran or North Korea or whatever, and we were often in a position to comment because of our technical expertise. We were often used in that way - and I think that was a relationship that continued through. Certainly with me - and I think also with David. Sometimes the two of us, David and I, we'd have dinner with her, or lunch if we were all in town together. It wasn’t uncommon - and I assume, but don’t know, that is all there was to that relationship - and I don’t know any more than that.

LR: OK - there were emails that they exchanged on his final morning - where Judy mentioned that he had some fans who were interested in how his testimony went - do you have any idea, or can you say, who she was talking about?

RB: No (laughs)

LR: (laughs) I thought that might be your answer - just thought I’d ask!


LR: OK - I presume that you followed fairly closely when those mobile trailers were found in Iraq, and some of the reporting that came out of that period. There were a lot of odd leaks regarding the White Paper and the Jefferson Project and whatnot - and Judy was trying to sell the trailers as being weapons labs and so on - do you have any comment about how the CIA could even allow that dodgy reporting to occur, and how that came about?

RB: Well.... this is a very curious thing - and it's not just about Judy Miller, but also other reporters getting information - sometimes from the CIA - both pre and post war. There was some very curious reporting - and you've got to wonder 'where does this information come from?'

Because the sort of information that comes out, I have to say, is usually supportive of the administration. Other information that is not supportive of the administration, well, you don’t see it in the reporting, and you don’t see it in the leaks from the CIA. So you have to ask yourself 'is someone orchestrating this?'

I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist or anything - but I have to say that I have wondered about this on a number of occasions. Again it's not just Judith Miller but a number of others seem to get 'official information' from the CIA, or someone, somewhere in Washington, anonymous sources that can't be named for various reasons. But who are these people? It can’t possibly be just one person - but it seems like there are a few people orchestrating this whole thing.

I have doubts that the agency can leak like that - because there are polygraph tests and all that - you can't leak information and pass a polygraph test. You know, there are a lot of CIA agents who are anxious to show me things they shouldn’t show me - even though I’m cleared to see it - because the question may come up 'have you shown any foreign national?' - So for them to give something to a journalist, unofficially - I’m not sure that would happen.

LR: But it sure does look like it a lot, doesn’t it?

RB: Well, yes - especially when it all happens in one direction. It makes me wonder - and I’m cautiously speculating - I have no evidence - but there may very well be a propaganda unit - within the CIA and other agencies. It must be within the US administration somewhere. So it appears that there's a propaganda unit that 'leaks' selectively information to certain journalists to spin a certain line that supports the administration. If that is true, it is very, very serious.

LR: (laughs) There aren’t many who would argue with you, I don’t think

RB: Well - if it’s true, then the American people are officially being hoodwinked. This is more serious than the American president saying something with a spin on it. These papers like Washington Post, NY Times, LA Times - well known and respected newspapers are reporting something that might falsely influence the American people - that’s propaganda. And it is illegal, and it is very sinister - it must be illegal if it is true. But I have to say, I’ve watched this fairly carefully, not just with Judy Miller - but with other journalists as well and I think 'who is this source that they are quoting? Why is information of this nature coming out?' And it’s hard to come to any other conclusion - but it must be a possibility that this is true - I have to be careful about how I phrase that.

LR: Well - there was the White House Iraq Group that did a lot of that of that. They had the job of selling the war in Iraq.

RB: Was there? I don't know of them.

You know, it's one thing for politicians to come out and say various things that we might not accept as true - but at least they’re saying it publicly - they aren’t leaking it and trying to influence public opinion per se. But this is different - if they are leaking it to journalists, officially - this is trying to influence public opinion in a certain direction - it's sinister!

LR: Well - a lot of us bloggers watch it closely every day - and we have no doubt that it goes on. In fact, we watch it happen and dissect it in real-time.

RB: Well, to an innocent like me, and I've been in the system for a long time, it's a shock! I dare say you may believe it - but I’m also coming to that conclusion myself. I'm deeply suspicious that it is true. And if it is true, then why aren’t more people writing about it? Why aren’t more people concerned? It’s very weird - I don’t think it occurs in Australia, for example, and probably not in the UK. If it occurs in the US, the American people should be very, very concerned about this. If there's actually a propaganda unit, you could almost say a Goebbels type unit, but I prefer not to use that analogy, influencing American public policy and opinion - this is deadly serious and very, very sinister - and they should all be very concerned if that is true.

LR: Of course - and the same message gets cycled around the world.

RB: Especially when it comes through prestigious newspapers like the NYT and Washington Post and LATimes - people listen when those newspapers report something...

Look, there are legitimate things that can be done to influence public opinion, and then there are things that are flat-out wrong. And selective leaking of bits of information, especially when it is dodgy information, and it's presented as being from some deep source within the CIA, that is just plain wrong. It's different if you are open and transparent about it, for example a politician speaking in public - that’s what politicians do - but what I'm talking about is a lot more sinister than that.

UPDATE: The fifth and final part of this interview is now posted at:

Luke Ryland: I mentioned to some friends that I was going to be speaking to you and they sent through some questions. Here’s one:

"At what point in time did you begin to believe that political influence was having an effect upon the findings or lack of findings by UNSCOM/UNMOVIC?"

Rod Barton: I don’t think that politics affected us - certainly not Blix anyway. There were people pulling him in different directions - it wasn’t just the US. Blix walked a pretty steady line - and you only have to read his Dec-Jan-Feb speeches to the UNSC - the critical months before the war - he wasn’t going easy on Iraq, he said that Iraq wasn’t cooperating - they were quite balanced speeches, and I think he got the balance right. He was treading a very thin line - but it was all based on our assessments. He had a stream of politicians of all stripes trying to get him to say this or that - but he did his own thing. If you go back to the old UNSCOM days, there was some political interference - particularly with Richard Butler - he was very much a US man - and I think he was swayed by the US at time to do something that favoured them, rather than favoured the UN. Do you know the Black Box episode?

LR: No

RB: The black box was put in our mission in Baghdad to collect communications intelligence - with Butler's permission - this is something that Scott Ritter talks about. We installed a device that would intercept Iraqi communications. Because the communications were secure, all the tapes had to go back to the NSA to be deciphered and the idea was that we would receive the product of that, but we received nothing. Nothing! And that was a problem with Butler - he didn’t keep control of that process. I think it was legitimate to install the black box - but it was being used by the US intelligence services, rather than for the benefit of the UN, and the inspectors. So that was a big mistake by Butler. He always claimed that he didn’t know that the US was going to do that, but how naive! And if he didn’t know, he should have asked! That was his job - he authorised it, the black box belonged to the US. You know, before putting something like that into a UN building to collect communications, he should have enquired. He claims that he was misled - I find it hard to excuse him on that - and he did get too close to the US, I believe. He lost a bit of independence and of course that was partly the reason that UNSCOM came crashing down and the whole organisation was wound up - we were totally discredited. I remember being in New York at the time and my colleagues were embarrassed about the whole story, and genuinely apologetic! It got to the point that I was embarrassed to say that I worked for UNSCOM!

LR: Here's another question. It doesn’t make much sense to me - but it might to you:

"Was there ever any significant consideration that those actual weapons (R400 chemical bombs, chemical Scud warheads, 155mm chemical artillery shells) which remained unaccounted for might have been used either during the 1991 Gulf War or at Halabja in 1988?"

RB: It's a good question - because one of the things that the ISG did not do was to account for all those weapons. We didn’t account for all of them - which isn’t to say that they still exist - but could they have been used elsewhere? I think we accounted for what was used at Halabja. We didn’t account for everything that was used in the 1991 war - I'm sorry, there were no chemical or biological weapons used in the 1991 war, but after the Gulf War... and this is where some of the accounting, we now know, and the ISG has found this out, is that after the 1991 Gulf war, Iraq still used chemical weapons - which seems remarkable to me - but its true, and the Iraqis have confessed to it. They used the chemical weapons to suppress the Shia uprising in Karbala and that’s where some of the R400 bombs were used - filled with nerve gas - and that’s why we couldn’t account for some of those bombs. That’s why some of them were missing. And going back to the 12,000 word document that you mentioned - this wasn’t mentioned in that document - and we only got that confession out of Iraq via some of the scientists and engineers and politicians that were locked up in 2003 - they freely admitted it, we didn’t have to extract it.

LR: there were no chemical scuds used in 1991?

RB: No - in 91, they had 50 chemical warheads - 50 scuds with chemicals, and 25 scuds with biological warheads - and we’re fairly sure of those numbers now. UNSCOM always argued that there could be more, or maybe not. I can tell you that we are close to being 100% sure as you can be on this sort of thing. None of them were ever fired, and I think we can account for all of them.

LR: ok - here's another question that I don’t really understand:

"What was the significance of the 'Air Force Document' and the documents relating to equipping of Missile Unit 223 in relation to the withdrawal of Iraqi cooperation in 1998?"

RB: The question makes sense to me. The 'Air Force document' was something that we recovered from a safe in 1996 or 97 - and the 'Air Force document' accounts for the number of chemical weapons that were dropped in the war against Iran. Iraq had always said that they knew how many they dropped but that they didn’t have any records about how many they dropped. But we found the records, this document, that showed how many they dropped - and the two don’t reconcile - so, basically, you could deduce that there were some missing weapons.

The 'Air Force document' was given to us in 2003 - as a last desperate measure - to indicate that they were cooperating - but we actually got a hold of that document in 1997 - I think - but it was grabbed back off the inspector. But before it was grabbed back off her, she had 30 mins with a translator and made a record of what it said. We’d demanded the document back but it was always a bone of contention because they said it had nothing to do with UNSCOM.

This was a sign of non-cooperation of course, because it was relevant, it did refer to chemical weapons, and it did relate to how many bombs had been used. I have to say I still cannot resolve that issue. The numbers do differ - there may be explanations - but we still don’t know the answers. The ISG was so obsessed with pre-war intelligence, with things that officials said, that they didn’t investigate some of the more basic issues - and this is one of them. Whether it really matters or not, I’m not sure - but this was certainly one of the unanswered questions.

LR: and Missile Unit 223?

RB: Right - that's the scud unit. I’m not sure I understand what is being referred to in that question - they did try to hide a lot from us on the missile side. The Iraqis did try to reactivate things on the missile side - not with scuds, so much - we could account for all the scuds in the end - but we couldn’t account for all the components. And what Iraq was doing in what I call 'the dark years' - when the inspectors left at the end of 98 - and didn’t return until the end of 2002 - they had about 4 years with which to fiddle around with things. They didn’t do anything in the chemical and biological or nuclear - but they certainly did a lot of things with missiles. They had long range missile programs going - not based on the scud which was old technology - but on newer technology, and they started the new long-range missile program - and UNMOVIC found this, and then later the ISG discovered the rest - but I’m not specifically sure about what the question about 223 is all about.

LR: Ok - moving on. I mentioned to you this movie about Sibel(Edmonds). David Albright talks about al Qaeda getting nukes - or at least plutonium or uranium, do you know anything about al Qaeda getting their hands on any of that stuff?

RB: No - I don’t. Its a possibility, but I'd have to say that I’d be surprised, partly because nuclear weapons are so valuable - enriched uranium is so valuable, nobody gives it away - but also, to enrich uranium, enough for a weapon, say 25 kg, you are talking about millions of dollars. And so its highly protected - not only because of its strategic value, but because of its commercial value. So I don’t know how they would get this stuff I guess is basically what I'm saying. It's a possibility of course - for ideological reasons or whatever - but this stuff is so protected that you know, one person is not in charge - so I cant really answer the question - and I don’t know what al Qaeda might do with that, or how they might get it - but I have to say, I’d be surprised. More likely, if al Qaeda was doing anything, they'd look at chemical or biological - that's easy compared to nuclear.

LR: OK. Thanks very much for your time. Anything else?

RB: All I can say is that the whole thing is a disgraceful episode - for both intelligence and politics - and what I hope from all of this is that we learn something. It appears that we haven’t - but we do need to learn something because now we are have other concerns like Iran and North Korea (ed: the interview was conducted prior to the recent DPRK test). Have we lost faith in our intelligence communities? Have we learnt anything from it? I fear not. That’s partly why I wrote the book - which is what has been described as a 'ripping yarn.'

LR: How about the situation in Iraq today?

RB: Yeah - Iraq is a very grim situation - however, I've seen worse situations than Iraq - I worked in Somalia. Iraq isn't there yet, but it will be if we don't do something.

LR: There doesn't look to be much good news coming out of there

RB: No - afraid not - and it just gets worse. The Iraqis are paying a terrible price for the actions we took in that war - there are 3000 people dying a month. And the future looks very grim - I'm not sure where it's going to go, or what should happen next. If I had a magic wand, I don't even know what I would do. It's very grim.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hamish Killip

'We shouldn't even be having a discussion about what they are for - it's bleedingly obvious'

This is part three of Luke Ryland's interview with Rod Barton:

Luke Ryland: Regarding Curveball, I'm sure you've seen that he was close to Chalabi.

Rod Barton: Yes - I've seen that - but if you read the latest SSCI report, they put some distance between Chalabi and Curveball, and that seemed reasonable to me. I mean, I could believe it either way - but given Curveball's background, and how he came out to Germany and his initial approaches... I think that at least initially, he wasn’t an INC man. It's possible they got to him later on and gave him some stories to spin - maybe. I'm fairly certain that he wasn’t INC initially.

As I recall, he'd stolen - or at least misappropriated - money from the Iraqi system - and that's one of the reasons that the Germans weren’t going to give him a visa initially. He was applying as a political refugee, and would have been punished if he returned, but that's not a reason to give someone a refugee visa. So that's when he started coming up with these stories, and they got more elaborate as they went on - so I think he probably had his own motivations for saying what he had to say, and it had nothing to do with Chalabi and INC, but maybe they got to him later.

LR: How about the reporting about these mobile trailers? How they were able to go through two or three different reporting cycles in which they positively ID'd the trailers - which enabled George Bush to say "We have found WMDs"? And we also had the White Paper post-dated so that Bush's statement was somehow 'technically true'?

RB: These trailers make me so angry. As you know there were opposing views from the different teams that investigated them - but you don’t need to be an expert to know that they had nothing to do with biology. I first saw them on TV - and I was immediately suspicious. The whole thing looked very, very odd to me. You don't need to be an expert to very rapidly come to the conclusion that they weren't for biological weapons. There was also a mountain of paperwork that demonstrated that they had nothing to do with weapons - there is an operators manual about how to produce hydrogen, there is the contract for the manufacture of the trailers which specifies that they were to produce hydrogen and so on. There’s no question that is what the trailers did, and if you turned the trailers on, guess what, they produced hydrogen!

My friend Hamish Killip said 'We shouldn't even be having a discussion about what they are for - it's bleedingly obvious'

LR: You mentioned that there were in fact some opposing views though.

RB: Well, there were some people who wanted to believe that they were biological, and they wrote the report that way, but everyone very quickly realised that they were not. This is even before they had the benefit of seeing the documentation. Once you have the documentation, you can convince anybody. In fact, I did - I convinced General Dayton. There was a lot of conflict between the CIA team leader and the engineers on this.

The team leader - who had no experience in any of this technology - she was not even an engineer, she said "I don't know what they are for, therfore I can't dismiss the possibility that they are not hydrogen generators."

I said "This is absurd. You acknowledge that you aren't an expert, you are not an engineer, and the engineers are saying that this is nonsense"

She finally acknowledged that to me, privately, that it was almost impossible for her to say that the trailers were not biological. She said "I just can't say that" - and I told her that I couldn't really understand why it was so difficult.

LR: Right - she was obviously just buying time - and in the meantime these trailers were still being identified as biological on the front pages of the newspapers, as well as in speeches by key members of the administration.

RB: As I say, the whole thing is outrageous. I discuss this episode in detail in my book.

LR: One issue that came out of the Curveball story is that Stephen Hatfill was secretly building mobile biological labs back in 2001 - purportedly to train Special Forces in the event they came across a mobile weapons lab. Do you know if that initiative came out of Curveball's reporting, or are there other reasons why they might want to make a mobile lab?

RB: That I can't say, but don't forget that Iraq had previously discussed mobile weapons labs - General Sa'adi raised it with us when they first told us about the biological facility and we asked 'why build it out in the desert?' and that's when Sa'adi told us about the idea of mobile facilities, and I think they got the idea because the Russians had similar facilities which would be difficult to find, and then they told us that they didn’t actually build mobile labs, for what it's worth, so the idea may have come out of that, I don't know. And maybe it came out of Curveball's comments because it resonated with what Sa'adi told the UNSCOM inspectors.

LR: There's also the suggestion that the idea of mobile labs went from Scott Ritter to Chalabi to Curveball

RB: Yes, and Milton Leitenberg suggested that to me. It would be ironic if it was true, but I think that Milton has now recognized that maybe he was wrong after reading the SSCI findings - so it's still a possibility - but I don’t know, and can't really comment. I don’t think anyone knows.

LR: I found it odd that Special Forces would require a complete trailer that was all but 'plugged in' for training to find one in the desert. Does that seem odd to you?

RB: I found it odd too - but we don't know how much was built. I know that there is speculation that the whole thing was completely built, but was it a mock up? I doubt whether the whole thing was connected together - in other words, you only need something that you are likely to see - because you only need to be able to recognize what you are looking at - and as it turned out, of course, the trailers that we found at ISG, at Irbill and wherever else, were not biological trailers, but could easily be mistaken for that at initial glance. You know they've got reactors on board, and pipe works and cylinders and compressors and so on - so if you don’t know what you are looking for, you can easily make a mistake. The trailers that we had were hydrogen generators, and if you didn’t have any technical knowledge, you might think they were something else - so you probably have to have something so that you can recognise what you are looking at, and you don't grab something that is completely irrelevant.

LR: The training didn’t seem to help very much, then.

RB: (laughs) No.

LR: The reporting from Judy Miller and others indicated that the secret trailers that Hatfill built were all but plugged in.

RB: Yeah - I've read the same thing - but I’ve also heard from somewhere, I'm not sure where, that that was incorrect - but I don't see why you'd have a whole, complete facility - with all the pipe work and everything - I don’t see why you would need to do that. Let me think, if I was doing that... depending how much money I had to spend, I’d probably buy a small fermenter, a water purifier, a few pumps and pipes and filters and so on - and put them all on a trailer - you wouldn’t need to wire it all together - it'd look pretty convincing, and only a specialist would be able to spot the different things like electronic control panels which are required because you've got to have constant temperatures, therefore you've got to have sensors to detect the temperatures and the pH and so on - you simply don't need that level of sophistication.

You could just put an electric box in there with lots of wires. You know, only a very great specialist would be able to work out exactly what it did - so that level of sophistication wouldn't be necessary. I’d be surprised if that reporting was accurate and the trailer really was was complete. Maybe it was complete, and if so, the question would be "why?" - because that level of sophistication would cost you quite a bit more money, and a lot more time to get it right - why would you put all that extra money and time in? That doesn’t make sense to me.

LR: Me either - that's why I raised the question

RB: It certainly doesn’t make sense to me, and it's not the way I would do it. If I was asked to do that, I could easily construct a pretty convincing trailer for training the Special Forces - and only an expert could tell the difference between that and a real trailer - and only if the expert was trying to actually operate it could they tell the difference - either because they could tell that it wasn’t all connected together, or the electronics is not all wired up and so on.

LR: One of the other questions that I had about that episode was that Hatfill had his security clearance revoked - but the Pentagon was desperate to put him back on the project - I presume that there are a lot of people on the planet who could put together a trailer to train special forces. Is that correct?

RB: Yes.

LR: And therefore do you have any hypotheses about why they might desperately want Hatfill on the project?

RB: No - I have no idea. You could only hypothesise that maybe he knew enough about it and knew what he wanted and maybe he worked well with them, and a million other things. There might be a lot of reasons - but I can only speculate.