Kay: Wrong evidence on Iraq sets tougher standard for Iran
NEW YORK (CNN) -- False warnings about Iraq's nuclear capabilities have "seriously impeded" the United States' ability to issue warnings about any intelligence on Iran's nuclear program, a former chief weapons hunter said Thursday.
Despite Secretary of State Colin Powell's acknowledgment that he had seen information indicating Iran may be trying to produce nuclear missiles, proof of such a program may now be more difficult to find, David Kay told CNN's "American Morning."
Kay, who headed President Bush's Iraq Survey Group in its search for weapons of mass destruction before resigning last December, said it was "likely" that Iran still had not disclosed all its activities but the bar for evidence is higher after Iraq.
"We have the makings, really, of a perfect storm," Kay said. "U.S. intelligence capability to warn -- and the secretary of state's capability to warn -- about weapons programs has been seriously impeded by the false warnings given about Iraq."
Kay also questioned the origins of the information released earlier this week.
"This intelligence seems to be based on dissident groups," he continued. "In the case of Iraq, dissident groups fed us misinformation. And then finally, the (International Atomic Energy Agency's) own capability in Iran is seriously in question. For 15 years they missed a program. So you can say it's likely, but it's going to be very hard to convince the Europeans and others that that is what is happening."
The National Council of Resistance of Iran -- which is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations -- revealed satellite photographs this week it said showed a hidden nuclear plant in Iran, allegations the Iranians denied.
"This allegation is timed to coincide with the next meeting of the board of governors of the IAEA," Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hussein Moussavian, said. "And every time just before the meeting there are these kind of allegations either from the United States or terrorist groups. And every time these allegations have proven to be false."
Powell, en route to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Santiago, Chile, told reporters he had seen intelligence that appears to "corroborate" the resistance group's information.
"And it should be of concern to all parties," said the secretary, who announced his resignation this week. "I'm talking about information that says that they not only had these missiles, but I'm aware of information that suggests they were working hard as to how to put the (missiles and the nuclear devices) together."
In October, Iran said it could mass produce the Shahab-3 missile, capable of hitting Israel and/or U.S. forces in the Mideast, although it insisted that the missiles were only for defensive purposes. Reports at the time said the missile was capable of carrying a conventional or nonconventional warhead.
The IAEA said it is investigating the resistance group's claims. The group has "a checkered record," Kay said.
"It's been right about some information," he said. "It's been seriously wrong. I think the Iranians will have no trouble discrediting it coming so soon after a supposed agreement with the Europeans."
In that agreement, Iran agreed to completely suspend its uranium enrichment program and invited the IAEA to inspect its activities.
In his weekend report to the Board of Governors, IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei said all of Iran's declared nuclear materials were accounted for, but left open the possibility that there could be some undeclared material.
Kay said the only way to know for sure is give the IAEA full authority to find out.
"The report is nuanced and speaks of what they observed and admits that there may be things that they have not observed," he said. "The real imperative now is to empower the IAEA, the only people on the ground in Iran, with the capability to do real inspections and see if the Iranians allow it."