Saddam’s Nuclear Script

Ed. Although not mentioned in the article, it’s nice to see the NYT concerned with national security for a change.

Wall Street Journal November 4, 2006

The troubles in Iraq have caused many Americans to conclude we should never have toppled Saddam Hussein. So it’s worth noting a new report that reminds us that if Saddam were still in power he’d almost certainly be in a race with his arch-enemy Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb. The alternative to regime change was not the continuation of a sanctions regime that was crumbling, thanks in part to Saddam Hussein’s manipulation of the U.N. Oil for Food program.

Saddam’s nuclear ambitions were known for at least 25 years, and the Israelis destroyed his Osirak reactor in 1981. But the latest reminder of how advanced his program was comes from Iraqi documents made public this year after calls from Congressman Pete Hoekstra and Senator Rick Santorum for the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to release thousands of documents captured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Web site hosting those documents was shut down Thursday night after the New York Times inquired about roughly a dozen of these documents, which appeared to “constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb,” as the Times put it yesterday. The Times story suggests that this could have helped a country like Iran in its quest for the bomb.

However, that’s not likely since Iran is already known to possess advanced nuclear designs. And if the documents do present a proliferation risk, the fault lies with the DNI office and not with those who pushed for more declassification. The DNI has complete authority to keep classified any document it considers a national security threat, and it is using that authority liberally. Mr. Hoekstra, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, tells us the DNI has so far screened only about 1% of the so-called Harmony documents, and released only about 40% of those.

“If the DNI believes that the documents that were released were in the safe 40%, imagine what the 60% being withheld must contain,” Mr. Hoekstra says, adding that this latest twist “only reinforces the value of these documents in understanding the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime.”