WASHINGTON -- Still unable to find banned Iraqi weapons, the new US weapons inspector said yesterday that his strategy is to unravel Saddam Hussein's intentions as Iraq's former president worked to advance weapons of mass destruction programs.
Charles Duelfer, the CIA's special adviser on the weapons hunt, said the Iraq Survey Group he oversees is looking for a comprehensive picture, not simply an answer to the question: Were there weapons or not?
He did not say how long the effort might take.
"We're looking at it from soup to nuts, from the weapons end to the planning end to the intentions end," Duelfer said during a Capitol Hill news conference, nine weeks after he took over the weapons search.
In a closed session before the Senate Armed Services Committee early yesterday, Duelfer said US weapons hunters in Iraq have found more evidence that Hussein's regime had civilian, or "dual use," factories able to quickly produce biological and chemical weapons.
And, according to declassified testimony shared with reporters, the survey group has found new evidence that Iraqi scientists flight-tested long-range ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that "easily exceeded" the UN limits of 93 miles.
Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on armed services, called on the CIA to declassify Duelfer's entire status report, delivered to the committee. Levin said he is "deeply troubled" that the public version leaves out information that casts doubt on the Bush administration's contention that Iraq had an active WMD program.
"Mr. Duelfer's statement raises the same issues of selective use of information . . . that have been such a problem for the credibility of the intelligence community's prewar estimates related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," Levin said in a statement.
Publicly, Duelfer didn't break significant ground on the weapons search, saying he lacked sufficient information to draw conclusions about what Hussein had. He said the survey group is still going through 20 million pages of documents, visiting possible weapons sites, and trying to glean information from former government officials.
Duelfer took over the job as the top civilian weapons inspector after his predecessor, David Kay, resigned in January and told Congress "we were almost all wrong" about Hussein's weapons programs. In a flurry of public statements questioning whether the arms would ever be found, Kay renewed the debate about the very weapons programs that the Bush administration used to justify the invasion of Iraq.