Monday, October 02, 2006

Barton: a USG propaganda program to deceive

This is part 3 of my interview with Rod Barton. (part one, part two, part three, part four, part five)

In this instalment, we discuss Curveball and the purported Mobile Biological Labs - and we also touched upon Dr Hatfill's role in building mobile trailers for training Special Forces. For the record, I have previously speculated that Hatfill's trailers were something other than mock-ups. In this interview, Barton agrees with my proposition that the 'official' reported story doesn't quite add up - and he offers some alternative hypotheses, including the possibility that the reporting that the trailers were essentially complete-but-not-plugged-in was incorrect. For the record, I spoke to another WMD expert who also suggested that the reporting on this might be misleading. I will note that the reporting on this came from Judy Miller, who is apparently an expert on these matters, and who was in regular contact with lots of experts in the field - so it's curious that she could get something so wrong.
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Luke Ryland: Regarding Curveball, I'm sure you've seen that he was close to Chalabi.

Rod Barton: Yes - I've seen that - but if you read the latest SSCI report, they put some distance between Chalabi and Curveball, and that seemed reasonable to me. I mean, I could believe it either way - but given Curveball's background, and how he came out to Germany and his initial approaches... I think that at least initially, he wasn’t an INC man. It's possible they got to him later on and gave him some stories to spin - maybe. I'm fairly certain that he wasn’t INC initially.

As I recall, he'd stolen - or at least misappropriated - money from the Iraqi system - and that's one of the reasons that the Germans weren’t going to give him a visa initially. He was applying as a political refugee, and would have been punished if he returned, but that's not a reason to give someone a refugee visa. So that's when he started coming up with these stories, and they got more elaborate as they went on - so I think he probably had his own motivations for saying what he had to say, and it had nothing to do with Chalabi and INC, but maybe they got to him later.

LR: How about the reporting about these mobile trailers? How they were able to go through two or three different reporting cycles in which they positively ID'd the trailers - which enabled George Bush to say "We have found WMDs"? And we also had the White Paper post-dated so that Bush's statement was somehow 'technically true'?

RB: These trailers make me so angry. As you know there were opposing views from the different teams that investigated them - but you don’t need to be an expert to know that they had nothing to do with biology. I first saw them on TV - and I was immediately suspicious. The whole thing looked very, very odd to me. You don't need to be an expert to very rapidly come to the conclusion that they weren't for biological weapons. There was also a mountain of paperwork that demonstrated that they had nothing to do with weapons - there is an operators manual about how to produce hydrogen, there is the contract for the manufacture of the trailers which specifies that they were to produce hydrogen and so on. There’s no question that is what the trailers did, and if you turned the trailers on, guess what, they produced hydrogen!

My friend Hamish Killop said 'We shouldn't even be having a discussion about what they are for - it's bleedingly obvious'

LR: You mentioned that there were in fact some opposing views though.

RB: Well, there were some people who wanted to believe that they were biological, and they wrote the report that way, but everyone very quickly realised that they were not. This is even before they had the benefit of seeing the documentation. Once you have the documentation, you can convince anybody. In fact, I did - I convinced General Dayton. There was a lot of conflict between the CIA team leader and the engineers on this.

The team leader - who had no experience in any of this technology - she was not even an engineer, she said "I don't know what they are for, therfore I can't dismiss the possibility that they are not hydrogen generators."

I said "This is absurd. You acknowledge that you aren't an expert, you are not an engineer, and the engineers are saying that this is nonsense"

She finally acknowledged that to me, privately, that it was almost impossible for her to say that the trailers were not biological. She said "I just can't say that" - and I told her that I couldn't really understand why it was so difficult.

LR: Right - she was obviously just buying time - and in the meantime these trailers were still being identified as biological on the front pages of the newspapers, as well as in speeches by key members of the administration.

RB: As I say, the whole thing is outrageous. I discuss this episode in detail in my book.

LR: One issue that came out of the Curveball story is that Stephen Hatfill was secretly building mobile biological labs back in 2001 - purportedly to train Special Forces in the event they came across a mobile weapons lab. Do you know if that initiative came out of Curveball's reporting, or are there other reasons why they might want to make a mobile lab?

RB: That I can't say, but don't forget that Iraq had previously discussed mobile weapons labs - General Sa'adi raised it with us when they first told us about the biological facility and we asked 'why build it out in the desert?' and that's when Sa'adi told us about the idea of mobile facilities, and I think they got the idea because the Russians had similar facilities which would be difficult to find, and then they told us that they didn’t actually build mobile labs, for what it's worth, so the idea may have come out of that, I don't know. And maybe it came out of Curveball's comments because it resonated with what Sa'adi told the UNSCOM inspectors.

LR: There's also the suggestion that the idea of mobile labs went from Scott Ritter to Chalabi to Curveball

RB: Yes, and Milton Leitenberg suggested that to me. It would be ironic if it was true, but I think that Milton has now recognized that maybe he was wrong after reading the SSCI findings - so it's still a possibility - but I don’t know, and can't really comment. I don’t think anyone knows.

LR: I found it odd that Special Forces would require a complete trailer that was all but 'plugged in' for training to find one in the desert. Does that seem odd to you?

RB: I found it odd too - but we don't know how much was built. I know that there is speculation that the whole thing was completely built, but was it a mock up? I doubt whether the whole thing was connected together - in other words, you only need something that you are likely to see - because you only need to be able to recognize what you are looking at - and as it turned out, of course, the trailers that we found at ISG, at Irbill and wherever else, were not biological trailers, but could easily be mistaken for that at initial glance. You know they've got reactors on board, and pipe works and cylinders and compressors and so on - so if you don’t know what you are looking for, you can easily make a mistake. The trailers that we had were hydrogen generators, and if you didn’t have any technical knowledge, you might think they were something else - so you probably have to have something so that you can recognise what you are looking at, and you don't grab something that is completely irrelevant.

LR: The training didn’t seem to help very much, then.

RB: (laughs) No.

LR: The reporting from Judy Miller and others indicated that the secret trailers that Hatfill built were all but plugged in.

RB: Yeah - I've read the same thing - but I’ve also heard from somewhere, I'm not sure where, that that was incorrect - but I don't see why you'd have a whole, complete facility - with all the pipe work and everything - I don’t see why you would need to do that. Let me think, if I was doing that... depending how much money I had to spend, I’d probably buy a small fermenter, a water purifier, a few pumps and pipes and filters and so on - and put them all on a trailer - you wouldn’t need to wire it all together - it'd look pretty convincing, and only a specialist would be able to spot the different things like electronic control panels which are required because you've got to have constant temperatures, therefore you've got to have sensors to detect the temperatures and the pH and so on - you simply don't need that level of sophistication.

You could just put an electric box in there with lots of wires. You know, only a very great specialist would be able to work out exactly what it did - so that level of sophistication wouldn't be necessary. I’d be surprised if that reporting was accurate and the trailer really was was complete. Maybe it was complete, and if so, the question would be "why?" - because that level of sophistication would cost you quite a bit more money, and a lot more time to get it right - why would you put all that extra money and time in? That doesn’t make sense to me.

LR: Me either - that's why I raised the question

RB: It certainly doesn’t make sense to me, and it's not the way I would do it. If I was asked to do that, I could easily construct a pretty convincing trailer for training the Special Forces - and only an expert could tell the difference between that and a real trailer - and only if the expert was trying to actually operate it could they tell the difference - either because they could tell that it wasn’t all connected together, or the electronics is not all wired up and so on.

LR: One of the other questions that I had about that episode was that Hatfill had his security clearance revoked - but the Pentagon was desperate to put him back on the project - I presume that there are a lot of people on the planet who could put together a trailer to train special forces. Is that correct?

RB: Yes.

LR: And therefore do you have any hypotheses about why they might desperately want Hatfill on the project?

RB: No - I have no idea. You could only hypothesise that maybe he knew enough about it and knew what he wanted and maybe he worked well with them, and a million other things. There might be a lot of reasons - but I can only speculate.

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OK - I don't want to poison a great interview with some uninformed speculation, but Barton appears to support some of my basic concerns here - a) there's no reason that a trailer should be all-but-complete and b) it appears that b,i) a generic trailer is sufficient for training purposes b,ii) there's no apparent reason that you'd over-ride security concerns to un-revoke Hatfill's security clearance so that he could continue to work on the project.

Keep in mind, the next instalment of the interview will show that despite Barton's decades-long expertise in weapons hunting and shenanigans of the highest order, when I ask him about propaganda he is almost surprised that any such thing could take place. His basic stance is that 'it almost appears that there is a USG propaganda program to deceive - but surely that isn't true! Surely not!'

he appears to be coming around to our way of thinking. aka - the facts.

3 comments:

Simon said...

You know, I think the US was caught completely with its pants around its ankles when it first got wind of an idea of Iraq having such a mobile BW capability. Sure the Soviets had tried out the idea during the Cold War, but the US had never given it much of a thought. That's why Stephen Hatfill ran a crash programme to make such a lab, just so they had a clue as to what it was all about.

Google:

Your search - "US mobile BW production capability" - did not match any documents.

lukery said...

I don't think so - they learnt about them in 1995:
"Where did the notion of the possibility of an Iraqi mobile BW production capability come from? In 1995, Lt. General Amir al-Sa’adi told UNSCOM officials that in 1988 he had suggested that perhaps Iraq should develop its BW production on mobile platforms. "

Simon said...

In 1995 and (1988), the idea of the labs was just that, a scientific notion of Iraq's industrial imagination. 'Twasn't till much later when the drums of war were beating that this notion became something much more real, at least in the minds of the hawks. They wanted to turn it into reality, it wasn't happening in Iraq so they did it at home...