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AP: Intelligence On Syrian WMD ‘No Slam Dunk’

First we have this from Reuters:

U.S. intelligence committees say they’re not properly consulted on Syria

By Mark Hosenball and Patricia Zengerle | August 28, 2013

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. congressional intelligence committee leaders believe the Obama administration has not properly consulted them as the president engages in final deliberations for possible military action in Syria, according to congressional officials.

One of the officials said the administration’s discussions with critical lawmakers, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein and her House counterpart, Mike Rogers, had been limited to "very brief status updates."

Another official said such talks had largely taken place over unclassified non-secure phone lines, making it difficult to discuss sensitive intelligence findings or details of the administration’s plans for a possible U.S. military response…

Secretary of State John Kerry delivered an impassioned statement on Monday laying out the case for punishing the Assad government after he said evidence showed that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was "undeniable." He also said the Syrian government had maintained custody of the weapons and had the rockets capable of delivering them.

And never mind that, as we have pointed out, that is simply not true. The then Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, said in September last year that some of Syria’s chemical weapons may had fallen into rebel hands. (See below.)

But the Obama administration seems to be pinning everything on the claim that the Syrian government has always had total control over they chemical weapons stockpile.

But the administration as of midday on Wednesday had yet to share a U.S. intelligence report that may directly link the Assad government to last week’s attack…

Perhaps this is why. From the Associated Press:

AP sources: Intelligence on weapons no ‘slam dunk’

By KIMBERLY DOZIER and MATT APUZZO | August 29, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed at least 100 people is no "slam dunk," with questions remaining about who actually controls some of Syria’s chemical weapons stores and doubts about whether Assad himself ordered the strike, U.S. intelligence officials say.

President Barack Obama declared unequivocally Wednesday that the Syrian government was responsible, while laying the groundwork for an expected U.S. military strike.

"We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out," Obama said in an interview with "NewsHour" on PBS. "And if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences."

However, multiple U.S. officials used the phrase "not a slam dunk" to describe the intelligence picture — a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet’s insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a "slam dunk" — intelligence that turned out to be wrong.

A report by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence outlining that evidence against Syria is thick with caveats. It builds a case that Assad’s forces are most likely responsible while outlining gaps in the U.S. intelligence picture. Relevant congressional committees were to be briefed on that evidence by teleconference call on Thursday, U.S. officials and congressional aides said.

The complicated intelligence picture raises questions about the White House’s full-steam-ahead approach to the Aug. 21 attack on a rebel-held Damascus suburb, with worries that the attack could be tied to al-Qaida-backed rebels later.

The AP is doubting Obama?

Administration officials said Wednesday that neither the U.N. Security Council, which is deciding whether to weigh in, or allies’ concerns would affect their plans…

In other words, Obama doens’t care if the UN or the allies disagree with his assessments. He is going to punish Syria, anyway. — Lest we forget, even ‘the cowboy’ George Bush was never this cavalier.]

Over the past six months, with shifting front lines in the 2½-year-old civil war and sketchy satellite and human intelligence coming out of Syria, U.S. and allied spies have lost track of who controls some of the country’s chemical weapons supplies, according to one senior U.S. intelligence official and three other U.S. officials briefed on the intelligence shared by the White House…

U.S. satellites have captured images of Syrian troops moving trucks into weapons storage areas and removing materials, but U.S. analysts have not been able to track what was moved or, in some cases, where it was relocated. They are also not certain that when they saw what looked like Assad’s forces moving chemical supplies, those forces were able to remove everything before rebels took over an area where weapons had been stored.

In addition, an intercept of Syrian military officials discussing the strike was among low-level staff, with no direct evidence tying the attack back to an Assad insider or even a senior Syrian commander, the officials said.

So while Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that links between the attack and the Assad government are "undeniable," U.S. intelligence officials are not so certain that the suspected chemical attack was carried out on Assad’s orders, or even completely sure it was carried out by government forces, the officials said.

Ideally, the White House seeks intelligence that links the attack directly to Assad or someone in his inner circle to rule out the possibility that a rogue element of the military decided to use chemical weapons without Assad’s authorization. Another possibility that officials would hope to rule out: that stocks had fallen out of the government’s control and were deployed by rebels in a callous and calculated attempt to draw the West into the war…

The uncertainty calls into question the statements by Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden [sic!].

"We know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons," Kerry said. "We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place."

Again, it’s a lie that Syria maintained total custody of the weapons. From the archives of Foreign Policy Magazine:

Panetta: We’ve Lost Track of Some Syrian Chemical Weapons

Posted By Kevin Baron Friday, September 28, 2012

The U.S. has lost track of some of Syria’s chemical weapons, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday, and does not know if any potentially lethal chemicals have fallen into the hands of Syrian rebels or Iranian forces inside the country.

“There has been intelligence that there have been some moves that have taken place. Where exactly that’s taken place, we don’t know.” Panetta said, in a Pentagon press briefing…

Panetta’s statement follows reporting that Syrian rebels claim to have taken control of a military base that contains chemical weapons.

“But with regards to the movement of some of this and whether or not they’ve been able to locate some of it,” he said of U.S. intelligence, “we just don’t know.” …

But John Kerry always was a liar.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Thursday, August 29th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “AP: Intelligence On Syrian WMD ‘No Slam Dunk’”

  1. Judging by nerobama’s own words you can tell he doesn’t know for sure.

    “We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out,” Obama said in an interview with “NewsHour” on PBS. “And if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences.”

    Sounds a little shaky to me. I also find it sweetly ironict that these are most likely the very same chemical weapons that were moved by Saddam Hussein to Syria, to hide them from UN inspectors, and these very same democrats claimed didn’t exist.

    In the end, no matter who used these weapons, nerobama won’t do very much about it.

  2. Does anyone else find it curious that in every reference to this “attack” the weapon in question is only referred to as “chemical weapons”. What exactly was it? Nerve gas? Mustard gas? If they can’t even name the weapon, how can they justify Obama shooting across the bow?

    When someone mails anthrax to a senator we are made aware of the specific strain of anthrax and what labs in the world have supplies of that anthrax in their inventory. Usually within a day or so. But for this “attack” they only use the nebulous term “chemical weapon”. Sounds like a setup to me. If you mix bleach and ammonia you have created a “chemical weapon”. A bottle of acid for pool maintenance is a chemical weapon. A molitov cocktail could be considered a chemical weapon. A cabinet full of cleaning supplies could, with this amount of specificity, be referred to as a chemical weapons stockpile.

    Fool me twice…


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