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Iraq Transition

On tape, Hussein talks of WMDs

Former Iraqi leader heard saying he warned U.S. of terrorism
Iraq's then-President Saddam Hussein says he warned America of an imminent terrorist attack in the 1990s.


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Charles Duelfer
Hussein Kamel

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein told his Cabinet in the mid-1990s that the U.S. would fall victim to terrorists possessing weapons of mass destruction but that Iraq would not be involved, tapes released Saturday at an intelligence summit reveal.

Hussein also can be heard speaking with high-ranking Iraqi officials about deceiving United Nations inspectors looking into Iraq's weapons program, which his son-in-law, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel, oversaw.

The tapes, which U.S. officials have confirmed are authentic, are part of a much larger cache of information on the nation's weapons programs. Six translators listened to the recordings for CNN. (Watch how the tapes show Hussein discussed terrorism with Cabinet -- 2:46)

Former U.N. weapons inspector Bill Tierney, who translated the tapes for the FBI, provided the recordings to a nongovernmental meeting in Arlington, Virginia, called Intelligence Summit 2006.

U.S. officials who have reviewed the tapes said Hussein was "fixated" on acquiring weapons of mass destruction and preventing U.N. inspectors from finding out.

On the tapes, Kamel and Hussein discuss whether Iraq should disclose information about its biological weapons program to U.N. inspectors. Iraq had previously denied having any such program.

"The question becomes, do we have to disclose everything or continue to keep silent?" Kamel said to Hussein. "I think it would be in our interest not to, because we don't want the world to know about what we possess because it has become clear to the countries who are forced to be allies of the U.S. that our position is untenable."

Kamel defected to Jordan in August 1995, the highest ranking member of Saddam's inner circle to do so. He returned to Iraq in February 1996 and was executed on the orders of Saddam's son, Uday.

The date of the recording is not known. But Kamel told CNN in September 1995: "No, Iraq does not possess any weapons of mass destruction. I am being completely honest about this."

Kamel acknowledged that he was told to keep secrets from U.N. inspectors.

"The order was to hide much of it from the start, and we hid a lot of that information, he told CNN. "These were not individual acts of concealment but as a result of direct orders from the top."

In another recording, an unidentified man tells Hussein that the U.N. weapons inspections are meaningless because the regime still maintains the intent and the technical knowledge to reconstitute its weapons programs.

"Sir, they cannot deprive us our will, and despite the pressures they bring to bear on us through monitoring, and despite the fact we were not able to put to use our missile technology, the time is not their side," the unidentified man said.

"No matter how much they take from us, the factories will be in our brains and souls, and the people who can make missiles out of stones and use them with success in four days can certainly achieve a great deal in one, two, or five years."

He tells Hussein "when it comes to time, they will be the losers."

Hussein also said on one of the tapes that he warned British and U.S. officials of an imminent attack employing weapons of mass destruction.

"Terrorism is coming. I told the Americans a long time before August 2 and I told the British as well, I think," Hussein tells then-Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. "I told them that in the future there will be terrorism with weapons of mass destruction."

He added, however, that Iraq would have no part in it. August 2 is believed to be a reference to the date of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which sparked the Gulf War the following year.

"This is coming. This story is coming, but not from Iraq," Hussein said.

Aziz is currently in U.S. custody and facing charges of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.

A U.S. official said the tapes "do not change the story" on Saddam's weapons programs in any substantive way.

"We already knew he had them in the early '90s and wanted to get them again after he lost them but was not able to," the official said.

A spokeswoman for Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said the tapes were "fascinating," but they "do not reveal anything that changes their postwar analysis of Iraq's weapons programs, nor do they change the findings contained in the comprehensive Iraq Survey Group report."

The Survey Group report, written by Charles Duelfer and published in October 2004, concluded that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded in March of 2003, but the regime intended to resume its WMD programs once U.N. sanctions were lifted.

Of the tapes, Duelfer said, "The tapes tend to reinforce, confirm, and to a certain extent, provide a bit more detail, the conclusions which we brought out in the report."

The tapes, which were obtained by the U.S. government sometime after the invasion of Iraq, are part of about 35,000 additional boxes of material on Iraq's weapons programs and efforts, said an aide to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra, R-Michigan, who has reviewed the tapes.

The material is awaiting translation, the aide said, and the Bush administration is contemplating making all the material public for journalists and academics to translate and review.

The International Intelligence Summit describes itself on its Web site as a nonpartisan, nonprofit forum that promotes an exchange of ideas among members of the international intelligence community.

The summit's main sponsor is the Michael Cherney Fund, whose Web site describes the fund's main objective as "helping realize the intellectual potential of the post-Soviet emigres to Israel."

The summit Web site states that the group supports the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, which have prompted widespread violence across the globe.

"In solidarity with the people of Denmark and in support of freedom of speech, the Intelligence Summit offers free conference admission to Danish passport holders," it states.

Tierney told ABC News, which first reviewed portions of the tapes, that he provided the tapes to the Intelligence Summit because it is wrong for the U.S. government to keep them from the public.

"Because of my experience being in the inspections and being in the military, I knew the significance of these tapes when I heard them," Tierney told ABC.

Former Justice Department prosecutor John Loftus, the president of the Intelligence Summit with whom Tierney shared the tapes, is now a private attorney and works pro bono "to help hundreds of intelligence agents obtain lawful permission to declassify and publish the hidden secrets of our times," according to Loftus' Web site.

CNN's David Ensor, Octavia Nasr, Justine Redman and David de Sola contributed to this report.

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