Tapes: Saddam HadSecret Uranium Enrichment Program

Kenneth R. Timmerman

Thursday, Feb. 16,2006

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

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

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

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

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

 Tierney worked with U.N. arms inspectors in Iraq in the late1990s, and experienced Iraq's "cheat and retreat" efforts first hand.He will release the original Arabic tapes and English languagetranslations Saturday at the Intelligence Summit, a privately-fundedconference in Arlington, Va. As non-U.S.-origin materials, they arenot classified.

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

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

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

 Nothing was too small to capture the Saddam's attention, saysTierney, "He had a special librarian in charge of taping all of hismeetings and keeping track of them, so Saddam could ask him who hetalked to about a particular subject three months earlier and findthat particular tape."

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

 Tierney first went to Iraq in the late 1990s to hunt down Iraqiweapons with the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM). "I knew Saddam wasnever going to give up his weapons programs," he told NewsMax.

Former colleagues with whom he shared the tapes told him that hissuspicions just barely scratched the surface. "They found things inthese tapes I had explained in a more benign manner," Tierneysaid.

 Highlights from the tapes were played Wednesday night on ABCNightline. The chairman of the House Permanent Select IntelligenceCommittee, Pete Hoekstra, has listened to some of the tapes anddeclared 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 topadvisors on his success at concealing Iraq's Weapons of MassDestruction programs from UN inspectors.

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

 None of the information Iraq had provided the UNSCOM inspectorswas accurate or complete, Hussein Kamil told Saddam. "Not the type ofthe weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported, not thevolume 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 1993assessment by Iraqi intelligence of foreign terrorist groups whocould attack America on Iraq's behalf, without the U.S. everrealizing who was sponsoring them.

Copyright2006, Kenneth R. Timmerman