18 October 2003

Experts Downplay Bioagent

A suspicious sample of biological material recently found by U.S. weapons hunters in Iraq probably was purchased legally from a U.S. organization in the 1980s and is a substance that has never been successfully used to produce a weapon, experts said.

The discovery of the hidden vial of C. botulinum Okra B, which was revealed in an Oct. 2 interim report by chief U.S. weapons hunter David Kay, was highlighted in speeches by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other senior administration officials as proof that President Saddam Hussein's government maintained an illicit bio-weapons program before the war.

The significance of the vial is one of several elements of Kay's report that are being called into question by U.S. biowarfare experts and former United Nations weapons inspectors. Although most praised Kay for uncovering numerous cases in which Iraq hid suspicious equipment and activities from U.N. inspectors, they said the report appeared misleading in several areas.

The LA Times piece also documents several other errors in the Kay report, such as identifying diseases endemic to Iraq but never weaponised as WMD projects and, most egregiously of all, claiming Iraq's chemical munitions are not marked as such and are stored with conventional munitions is simply 'baloney'.

When you recall that Kay's own experts were not allowed to read the report before it was given to Congress you have to ask how much of the Kay report represents actual investigation and how much is political fabrication.

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