by WorldTribune Staff, September 27, 2018
Is former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper playing fast and loose with the facts in his new book titled “Fact and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence”?
In the book, Clapper is critical of reporting by The Washington Times on the 2003 invasion of Iraq that, “on closer inspection, reveals the former spy chief was off the mark,” security correspondent Bill Gertz noted in a Sept. 26 report for the Washington Times.
Clapper writes of what he claims was an off-the-record breakfast with reporters in October 2003 that included a question from Gertz about vehicles fleeing Iraq into Syria and whether they were carrying weapons of mass destruction.
Related: Report: U.S suspects Iraqi WMD in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, August 26, 2003
Clapper stated that “it was impossible to determine who or what was in them,” adding that he should have noted that it was “a stretch” to think Iran-aligned Syria would help the Sunni-led government of Iraq hide weapons.
“The following morning, I was amazed to read the Washington Times headline: SPY CHIEF SAYS IRAQ MOVED WEAPONS: SATELLITE IMAGES BEFORE WAR SHOW HEAVY VEHICLE TRAFFIC INTO SYRIA,” Clapper wrote in the book.
Gertz noted that the meeting with Clapper, who at the time was director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, “was on the record. A review of the transcript reveals that the stories and headlines accurately reported what he said.”
After making some initial comments about the movement of materials and documents out of Iraq, a reporter asked Clapper, “Does that include evidence of dispersing of actual weapons and equipment, or are you just talking documentation?”
“I think it is both,” he said.
“And any moving out of the country?” the reporter continued.
“There is no question that, I mean, the borders of Iraq are long and porous and there is unquestionably, had to have been and was traffic across the borders,” Clapper said.
Asked about Syria, Clapper replied, “Oh yeah. There is no question about that.”
Reporter’s question: “No question that weapons were moved there?”
Clapper: “There is no question that there was a lot of traffic, increase in traffic up to the immediate onset of combat and certainly during Iraqi Freedom. Looking at trucks or vehicles which you may or may not be able to see inside of. But certainly inferentially, I think the, you know, the obvious conclusion one draws is the sudden upturn, uptick in traffic which may have been people leaving the scene, fleeing Iraq and unquestionably, I’m sure, material as well.”
On Aug. 26, 2003, WorldTribune.com cited a report in Geostrategy-Direct.com that U.S. intelligence first identified a stream of tractor-trailer trucks moving from Iraq to Syria to Lebanon in January 2003.
The report said the CIA at the time believed a multi-million dollar deal between Iraq and Syria provided for the hiding and safekeeping of Saddam Hussein’s strategic weapons.