Wednesday, February 5
Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | All too human failings of 'human intelligence'
Jeevan Vasagar,The Guardian, February 6, 2003
Colin Powell repeatedly vaunted the value of "human intelligence" in his briefing, describing some of America's sources as "people who have risked their lives to let the world know what Saddam Hussein is really up to".
He catalogued three kinds of source providing human intelligence, known as 'humint' in spy-speak; he quoted "numerous sources" apparently on the ground in Iraq, as well as praising a string of defectors.
Mr Powell also referred to information drawn in interrogation from detainees including a "senior al-Qaida terrorist". But there is concern that defectors and detainees can be highly unreliable. [...]
In his statement, Mr Powell appeared to make reference to one high-profile Iraqi defector, Khidir Hamza, who has become highly controversial. [...]
Dr Hamza, who defected in 1994, was a senior administrator on Iraq's nuclear weapons programme. He has been accused of making claims about programmes of which he had no direct knowledge.
David Albright, a former nuclear inspector, told the Observer last year: "[Hamza's] book is full of technical inaccuracies and there is no doubt he exaggerated his importance."
Mr Powell also talked about at least two detainees, one of whom has claimed that Iraq had offered chemical or biological weapons training for "two al-Qaida associates".
But, as a Guardian investigation revealed last month, the US is condoning the use of torture on prisoners held after September 11, raising doubts about the value of their confessions.
In a letter sent this week to Mr Powell, the director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, warned that allegations about the use of torture were discrediting the US.
There is also concern that al-Qaida detainees may be eager to see America going to war with a Muslim country.
Mr Cirincione said: "When al-Qaida attacked us on September 11, they didn't just want to kill a lot of people, they wanted to provoke the US into a response they thought would ignite a war between the Islamic world and the west. The Bush administration may be about to give them that war."