Thursday, March 31, 2005

Al Qaeda and advances in biological weapons 

The commission said in its final report that intelligence analysts were "surprised by the intentions and level of research and development" uncovered after the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001....

But the commission said intelligence agencies before the Afghanistan invasion had been uncertain whether al-Qaeda had managed to acquire "a far more dangerous strain", which it only identified as Agent X in its unclassified report....

After the war [in Afghanistan], it became clear that al-Qaeda's biological program was "further along, particularly with regard to Agent X, than pre-war intelligence indicated".

"The program was extensive, well-organised, and operated for two years before September 11 (2001), but intelligence insights into the program were limited. The program involved several sites in Afghanistan," the report said.

The commission said two of these sites contained commercial equipment and were operated by people with special training.

It cited documents as indicating that while al-Qaeda's primary interest was Agent X, the group had "considered acquiring a variety of other biological agents".


So. We now know that in the spring of 2002 it became clear to the Bush Administration that U.S. intelligence agencies had significantly underestimated the extent of al Qaeda's biological weapons program. This might explain why the Bush Administration reacted to intelligence about Iraq's programs conservatively, in the sense that it erred on the side of overestimating their development. It also explains why Saddam's unwillingness or inability to explain the disposition of his 10,000 liters of anthrax so concerned the Bush Administration less than a year after September 11. As well it should have.


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