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Tapes: Saddam Had Secret Uranium Enrichment Program

Kenneth R. Timmerman

Thursday, Feb. 16, 2006

In the year 2000, two years after Iraq expelled U.N. arms inspectors, two Iraqi scientists paid a discreet visit to Saddam Hussein in his presidential palace.

 They had come to brief the Iraqi dictator on their progress in enriching uranium using plasma separation. If successful, their efforts could have given Saddam the fissile material he was seeking to make a bomb.

 "You can tell that one of the scientists is nervous on the tape," former FBI translator Bill Tierney told NewsMax. "He is telling Saddam of all these wonderful things they can do with the plasma process, which they initially developed in the 1980s for the nuclear weapons program.

The scientist tried to convince Saddam to change course and use the technology for purely peaceful purpose, but the Iraqi dictator just listened politely. "You can imagine him nodding his head as you listen to the tape," Tierney said.

 Tierney believes the tapes will vindicate the pre-war analysis of Iraqi WMD programs. "If anything, after translating 12 hours of these tapes, I believe the U.S. intelligence analysis didn't go far enough," he told NewsMax.

 Tierney worked with U.N. arms inspectors in Iraq in the late 1990s, and experienced Iraq's "cheat and retreat" efforts first hand. He will release the original Arabic tapes and English language translations Saturday at the Intelligence Summit, a privately-funded conference in Arlington, Va. As non-U.S.-origin materials, they are not classified.

 The plasma enrichment program was so well-protected by the Iraqi regime that U.N. arms inspectors had never discovered it. "This not only shows the capabilities the Iraqis had, but also the weakness of international arms inspection," Tierney believes. "Arms inspection regimes just don't work."

 The plasma process got a brief mention in the 2004 final report of CIA arms inspector Charles Duelfer, but only as a legacy program the Iraqis had abandoned in the late 1980s.

 Saddam's secret presidential palace tapes are the first concrete evidence that Iraq continued clandestine uranium enrichment work all through the 1990s, right under the noses of U.N. inspectors.

 Nothing was too small to capture the Saddam's attention, says Tierney, "He had a special librarian in charge of taping all of his meetings and keeping track of them, so Saddam could ask him who he talked to about a particular subject three months earlier and find that particular tape."

 U.S. intelligence stumbled on twelve hours worth of tapes that they asked him to translate, but Tierney believes thousands of hours of Saddam's secret audio archive were seized during the liberation of Iraq and could become available soon.

 Tierney first went to Iraq in the late 1990s to hunt down Iraqi weapons with the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM). "I knew Saddam was never going to give up his weapons programs," he told NewsMax.

Former colleagues with whom he shared the tapes told him that his suspicions just barely scratched the surface. "They found things in these tapes I had explained in a more benign manner," Tierney said.

 Highlights from the tapes were played Wednesday night on ABC Nightline. The chairman of the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra, has listened to some of the tapes and declared them "authentic."

 In one key exchange in April or May 1995, Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamil al-Majid, briefs the Iraqi dictator and his top advisors on his success at concealing Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction programs from UN inspectors.

 "We did not reveal all that we have ... [T]hey don't know about our work in the domain of missiles. Sir, this is my work and I know it very well. I started it a long time ago, and it is not easy," he said.

 None of the information Iraq had provided the UNSCOM inspectors was accurate or complete, Hussein Kamil told Saddam. "Not the type of the weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported, not the volume of the production we told them about, not the volume of use. None of this was correct. They don't know any of this," he said.

 Other documents Tierney plans to release include a 1993 assessment by Iraqi intelligence of foreign terrorist groups who could attack America on Iraq's behalf, without the U.S. ever realizing who was sponsoring them.

Copyright 2006, Kenneth R. Timmerman


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