Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence

His name was Joe, from the U.S. government. He carried 40 classified slides and a message from the Bush administration.

An engineer-turned-CIA analyst, Joe had helped build the U.S. government case that Iraq posed a nuclear threat. He landed in Vienna on Jan. 22 and drove to the U.S. diplomatic mission downtown. In a conference room 32 floors above the Danube River, he told United Nations nuclear inspectors they were making a serious mistake.

At issue was Iraq’s efforts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes. The U.S. government said those tubes were for centrifuges to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. But the IAEA, the world’s nuclear watchdog, had uncovered strong evidence that Iraq was using them for conventional rockets.

Joe described the rocket story as a transparent Iraqi lie. According to people familiar with his presentation, which circulated before and afterward among government and outside specialists, Joe said the specialized aluminum in the tubes was “overspecified,” “inappropriate” and “excessively strong.” No one, he told the inspectors, would waste the costly alloy on a rocket. Washington post

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