Official: CIA holds position on Iraqi mobile labs
Reports have questioned bioweapons allegations
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The CIA stands by its assessment that complex mobile laboratories discovered in Iraq were designed and built to produce biological weapons, a senior CIA official told CNN on Saturday.
Critics of the U.S. intelligence assessment "don't have the benefit of all of the intelligence" that has been collected on the trucks, the official said.
"It is what we think it is, to the best of our knowledge," said the official, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name.
The New York Times reported Saturday that some bioweapons experts and analysts are not convinced that the labs were designed to make biological weapons and, the article suggested, that the U.S. "evaluation process had been damaged by a rush to judgment."
Disarming the Iraqi regime of alleged weapons of mass destruction was one of the main goals of the United States and its allies before the war. Since President Bush declared the war over, no such weapons have been found.
Former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay told CNN on Saturday that though there was a "lack of strong evidence" that the vehicles had been used to produce deadly biological agents, "the most likely use" and "the most probable use" was to create biological weapons. He said suggestions that the mobile labs had some more benign application, such as producing agricultural chemicals, were unlikely.
The CIA official, who has access to classified materials related to Iraq's alleged biological weapons program, said a key Iraqi intelligence source who had worked on the design of the mobile labs and provided intelligence about the program to the CIA before the war was asked to identify the vehicles from a series of photographs. The Iraqi source identified the correct trucks as the mobile biological weapons laboratories that he had described to U.S. intelligence.
Intelligence provided by that man was cited by Secretary of State Colin Powell in his presentation of the U.S. case to the United Nations before the invasion of Iraq.
"The guy who designed it identified it" for the CIA, the official said.
"They are designed to look like something else," he said, so Iraq could deny their function as biological weapons laboratories if they had been uncovered by U.N. inspectors. He said they were built on truck beds so they could be moved from locations likely to be inspected by the United Nations.
Kay said he was aware of a number of theories that the vehicles might have had other uses, "none of which make any logical sense."
Kay saw one of the vehicles on a recent trip to Iraq and received reports on the second.
Kay said most of the alternative uses that have been suggested "didn't pass the laugh test."
"The silliest one," Kay said, was the suggestion that they had been designed to generate hydrogen for meteorological balloons.