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December 10, 2014

Organizer of Told CIA’s Most Blatant Lie about Iraq and WMD

This is extremely important information from the New York Times:

The website was organized by Bill Harlow, the C.I.A.’s director of public affairs from 1997 to 2004, who still acts as a spokesman for George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director when the interrogation program began.

“Our concern is that right now people are reporting the Feinstein report as if it’s true,” Mr. Harlow said. “We don’t think it’s true.”

Bill Harlow told the CIA’s most blatant lie about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, just weeks before the U.S. invaded in March, 2003. Here’s what happened:

By the end of February, 2003, the U.S. case for war with Iraq was disintegrating. That February 15th had seen demonstrations of millions across the world in the biggest antiwar rallies in human history; the British parliament was showing signs it might vote against participating in the invasion; and most crucially, the UN had found no trace of WMD in Iraq.

At that point Newsweek published what was, to the Bush administration and CIA, the most terrifying story possible – that Iraq likely had no WMD, and the United States knew it.

What Newsweek revealed was that in 1995, when Hussein Kamel – Saddam’s son-in-law and head of Iraq’s WMD programs – had defected to Jordan, he told the UN, CIA and British intelligence that in fact Iraq had no WMD left.

According to Newsweek, "The CIA did not respond to a request for comment.” But the story quickly gained traction online, and when Reuters followed up on the Newsweek story, they went to Bill Harlow:

The CIA on Monday denied a Newsweek magazine report that Saddam Hussein's son-in-law told the U.S. intelligence agency in 1995 that Iraq after the Gulf War destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons and missiles to deliver them.

"It is incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue," CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said of the Newsweek report's allegations that Hussein Kamel told the CIA that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had destroyed all of his weapons of mass destruction.

Newsweek said Kamel, who headed Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs for 10 years, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that Iraq had destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stockpiles after the 1991 Gulf War.

"We've checked back and he didn't say this," a British government source told Reuters. "He said just the opposite, that the WMD program was alive and kicking."

Harlow of the CIA said: "Newsweek failed to ask us this question.”

There’s absolutely no ambiguity here; Harlow was lying through his teeth. He wasn’t addressing what Iraq was doing in 2003, or even whether what Hussein Kamel had said in 1995 was true. Rather, he was simply addressing what Kamel said, something that the CIA knew with 100% certainty.

But don't take my word for it. The notes from Kamel's debriefing are now online, and anyone with an internet connection can see for themselves:


Bill Harlow is a liar, and nothing he says should be believed.

P.S. It wasn't just Bill Harlow who lied about Hussein Kamel. Dick Cheney also lied about him in his biggest pre-war speech, claiming that Kamel had said that Saddam had "resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons," when in fact Kamel had said exactly the opposite.

P.P.S. Weirdly, Harlow wrote a pretty good thriller in 1999 about terrorists trying to hijack a plane and crash it into the Knesset in Israel.

UPDATE: Newsweek has published a story about which mentions Harlow: "The former CIA officials behind the site include Bill Harlow, a top CIA spokesperson during the George W. Bush administration..."

Unfortunately, there's so little institutional memory at media outlets now that there's no mention of the fact that Harlow lied about what should have been one of the most important stories in Newsweek's history.

Posted at December 10, 2014 01:43 PM

I am just so so disgusted and sickened with all the lying, warring and torturing, I do not know where to turn for relief.

Posted by: rupa at December 10, 2014 03:47 PM

Why does he only say "we"? Is he part of the Borg?

Posted by: Lewis at December 10, 2014 04:19 PM

Thanks (as always) for remembering, Jon.

Posted by: Batocchio at December 11, 2014 01:29 AM

Is that last comment Franklin Foer?

Posted by: darrelplant at December 11, 2014 03:29 PM

Technically, they're correct in that not all of the chemical weapons were destroyed.

Recently, big alarms were raised in conservative media about ISIL finding a cache of chemical weapons in Iraq and the true believers kept tossing that out there in every social media site they could as justification for Bush and Cheney's war.

In reality, ISIL came upon a bunker with a stash of old Chemical warfare shells that were so rusty and considered so unstable as to be unsafe to actually destroy. Instead, that bunker was sealed with the blessings of the US, UK and UN inspectors.

At least, that was the understanding I had of the remnants of Saddam's WMD program....

Posted by: Dan_in_PA at December 15, 2014 03:38 PM