NYT: posted Iraq nuke documents on website may have helped Iran

I’m getting ready to hit the pillow but wanted to post the link to this story/hit piece quickly for discussion purposes:

Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended “pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.”

Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, fearing that the information could help states like Iran develop nuclear arms, had privately protested last week to the American ambassador to the agency, according to European diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. One diplomat said the agency’s technical experts “were shocked” at the public disclosures.

The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.


Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990’s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.

Kim Priestap at Wizbang has a lengthy link roundup of blogger/pundit reax, including this must-read from Jim Geraghty.

See additional commentary from Josh Manchester, who nails it: “The Final Surprise: El-Baradei Strikes Again”:

The alarm was raised by the IAEA, according to the Times.


The diplomats “were alarmed and discussing what to do.” It seems obvious, does it not, to pick up the phone and call your nearest American colleague and tell him he’s got an anarchist’s cookbook up on his internet? Certainly no government official who expects to keep his job would sit on such information? If, as the Times notes, the documents in question were only a dozen or so in number, then would it not take the retasking of a couple of translators and perhaps 6 hours of time from a nuclear physicist to determine if the documents in question are what the diplomats suspected them to be?

Or does one sit on this information for a few weeks, instead picking up the phone to the New York Times, and craft yet another October Surprise?

It’s not impossible. In fact, it happened before — two years ago, with the same agency! The IAEA, that is. The IAEA played a big part in the last October Surprise by the New York Times — the aptly named Al Qaqaa story, now safely ensconced behind the TimesSelect firewall. The abstract notes, “International Atomic Energy Agency warned of danger of these explosives before war . . .”

Rob at Say Anything rhetorically asks about the timing.

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