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Friday, July 9

Pivotal pre-war document was confident about Iraqi arsenal

By John Yaukey | GNS

WASHINGTON - Just before lawmakers voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq in October 2002, they were sent a pivotal 90-page report by the nation's intelligence community called the National Intelligence Estimate.

It said Iraq ``has chemical and biological weapons'' and ``probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade" if left unchecked.

Those assessments were reached without any U.S. or allied spies or operatives having seen any chemical or biological weapons in Iraq since 1995. The report was a central pillar of the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq.

More than a year of searching has yet to turn up any banned weapons or evidence of active programs to make them.

Reports like this one are based on thousands of pages of intelligence - human, technical and foreign - and are put together by a half-dozen intelligence agencies, principally the CIA.

Here are some key judgments and questions from the October 2002 report and the confidence intelligence officials had in them:

High confidence:

- Iraq possesses chemical and biological weapons and missiles.

- Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding, its chemical, biological, nuclear and missile programs.

- U.S. intelligence does not know about ``portions of these weapons programs.''

- Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material.

Moderate confidence:

- Iraq does not yet have a nuclear weapon or sufficient material to make one but is likely to have one by 2007 to 2009.

Low confidence:

- When Saddam Hussein would use weapons of mass destruction.

- Whether Saddam would engage in clandestine attacks on U.S. soil.

- Whether Saddam would share chemical or biological weapons with al-Qaida.