Posted by Curt on 24 February, 2008 at 10:19 am. 9 comments already!


Continuing the story about the CIA officer who had found a possible underground nuclear site in Iraq:

The man running the site was an Iraqi general, identified in the Company X report as PEAIR/13. According to the Eastern Europeans who had worked with him, he was “not young, but looked younger then he was.” He wore a military uniform “with no indication of rank on it; he was also a senior member of the Baath party who often traveled by helicopter.” Later the Eastern European project manager identified him as “Saddam’s cousin.”

By early June 2004, they were ready to make a foray to the area. Traveling with LYHUNT/101, they drove in through Turkey to Mosul, where they were met by another Company X associate, a number of Iraqi shooters from Baghdad, and a contingent of Kurdish peshmergas. By now, security had become an issue throughout Iraq.

The first surprise when they reached the site was the chemical plant in the valley on the far side of the Jebel Makhoul. It didn’t fit with the description of the facilities they had heard from other engineers who had worked in the area in the 1980s, until they realized it had been built later. After the 2003 war, it had been looted right down to the rebar.

When they reached the hillside overlooking the Tigris, they found what appeared to be a large cistern. “It had some interesting features,” the former CIA officer said. “It was fed by a 24-inch pipe that drew water from five miles up the river.”

They thought the cistern might be camouflaging the entry to the underground site, but they had no excavation equipment to test their hypothesis. It was serviced by a double-paved macadam road – the only paved road in the area – thick enough to accommodate 20-ton trucks. Nearby they found a Soviet-designed power station large enough to provide power to a town of 30,000 people, although there was no town of that size nearby. But uranium enrichment required huge amounts of power, and large supplies of fresh water as coolant, to disguise the plant from heat-sensing satellites. The power station had also been looted.

That was when they saw the spoils from digging. “They weren’t piled, but spread over a very wide area, so satellites wouldn’t pick up signs of excavation,” the former CIA officer said. They later estimated the Vietnamese had hauled up the equivalent of 5,000 truckloads of dirt and ground rock from below the surface. Whatever they had built, it was enormous.

After that unsuccessful attempt to find the entry shaft to the underground site, the former operations officer reported his findings to U.S. military intelligence and to a top ranking officer at CIA. The CIA was “not responsive,” he said. But the military intelligence officer jumped at the information – at first. He sent representatives to debrief one of the former Eastern European engineers, but then let it drop. When asked, he said he had “no command authority” to pursue the investigation.

The former operations officer had a long-established relationship with Lieutenant General William “Jerry” Boykin, a legendary figure in the special operations community who was now deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Boykin also jumped at the information at first, and gave the order to send in a SEAL team specialized in WMD sites to hunt for the hidden access shaft. “Then we got a call from Jacoby” – that would be Admiral Jacoby, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. “He said, ‘Don’t go to Baghdad, it’s too dangerous.'”

This was the same Jacoby who, other Pentagon sources told me, “was too busy working on his third star” through politicking in Washington to take an active interest in what was going on in Iraq.

Finding the entry shaft to a suspected WMD site hidden in a ten square mile area that was covered with rubble and ruined buildings was no mean feat. It was going to require significant excavation work. But before that, they had to narrow down the area to search, and the DIA made it clear they were not going to help.

Not long after this, a left-wing think tank, the Center for Public Integrity, released an “investigation” alleging that the wife of a top Company X executive involved in tracking down Site 555 had improperly used her position as a deputy assistant secretary of defense to steer Iraq reconstruction contracts his way. “She stayed clear of this,” the former operations officer said, referring to their investigation and other operations in Iraq. “This was just a smear aimed at sabotaging our efforts.”

Returning to Baghdad on his own dime in September 2004, the former operations officer decided to brief U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, whom he had known from Iran-Contra day in Honduras. “His people said we were full of shit,” he told me. “But remember, this was when the ISG was coming out with their final report. They wanted no waves, no loose ends.”

The Iraq Survey Group “inspectors” rarely left their compound near the Baghdad international airport because of the danger of IEDs and insurgent attacks. Their rare sorties mainly involved trips to the airport stockade, where top officials from Saddam’s regime were being held. “The big shots knew about the program, but they didn’t know the details,” the former operations officer said. Details such as the precise grid coordinates of the underground facility beneath Site 555.

The more Hoekstra learned about Site 555, the angrier he got. He had encouraged the former operations officer to return to Iraq several times in 2005, and again in 2006. By now, they had narrowed down the area to search for the hidden entry tunnel, and believed they had located what appeared to be ventilation shafts for the underground production halls. But still the DIA refused to help.

Hoekstra pounded on the table, and sent House intelligence committee staff members repeatedly to DIA headquarters. He wanted them to send in a team with handheld underground anomaly detectors, but the DIA refused. So did General Boykin’s boss, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone.

Finally, Hoekstra went to the White House and met with Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington, and suggested that he request a copy of the Company X report from General Boykin’s office at the Pentagon. Boykin eventually sent it over – minus the pictures, site diagrams, and key pages. What you guys are doing is history, one of Boykin’s aides said. We’re not interested in history.

Didn’t anybody get it? If they could locate an underground nuclear weapons site that had eluded the UN investigators and where uranium enrichment work had continued undetected for years, it would provide dramatic proof that Saddam Hussein had never abandoned his WMD programs, as the CIA, the Democrats, and the United Nations claimed.

Sometimes Hoekstra felt he was the only one who cared any longer to learn the truth about Saddam’s weapons programs.

To this day there had never been a concerted effort to follow up on this underground facility. Even to find out if it exists at all. Why not? If it exists it can be added to many other examples of evidence found that indicate Saddam was most assuredly in possession of WMD and had aspirations for the big one, nuclear.

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