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IRAQ WAR -
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Spy's Notes on Iraqi Aims Were Shelved, Suit Says

Posted in the database on Monday, August 01st, 2005 @ 00:56:58 MST (891 views)
by JAMES RISEN    New York Times  

Untitled Document WASHINGTON, July 31 - The Central Intelligence Agency was told by an informant in the spring of 2001 that Iraq had abandoned a major element of its nuclear weapons program, but the agency did not share the information with other agencies or with senior policy makers, a former C.I.A. officer has charged.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court here in December, the former C.I.A. officer, whose name remains secret, said that the informant told him that Iraq's uranium enrichment program had ended years earlier and that centrifuge components from the scuttled program were available for examination and even purchase.

The officer, an employee at the agency for more than 20 years, including several years in a clandestine unit assigned to gather intelligence related to illicit weapons, was fired in 2004.

In his lawsuit, he says his dismissal was punishment for his reports questioning the agency's assumptions on a series of weapons-related matters. Among other things, he charged that he had been the target of retaliation for his refusal to go along with the agency's intelligence conclusions.

Michelle Neff, a C.I.A. spokeswoman, said the agency would not comment on the lawsuit.

It was not possible to verify independently the former officer's allegations concerning his reporting on illicit weapons.

His information on the Iraqi nuclear program, described as coming from a significant source, would have arrived at a time when the C.I.A. was starting to reconsider whether Iraq had revived its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The agency's conclusion that this was happening, eventually made public by the Bush administration in 2002 as part of its rationale for war, has since been found to be incorrect.

While the existence of the lawsuit has previously been reported, details of the case have not been made public because the documents in his suit have been heavily censored by the government and the substance of the claims are classified. The officer's name remains secret, in part because disclosing it might jeopardize the agency's sources or operations.

Several people with detailed knowledge of the case provided information to The New York Times about his allegations, but insisted on anonymity because the matter is classified.

The former officer's lawyer, Roy W. Krieger, said he could not discuss his client's claims. He likened his client's situation to that of Valerie Wilson, also known as Valerie Plame, the clandestine C.I.A. officer whose role was leaked to the press after her husband publicly challenged some administration conclusions about Iraq's nuclear ambitions. (The former officer and Ms. Wilson worked in the same unit of the agency.)

"In both cases, officials brought unwelcome information on W.M.D. in the period prior to the Iraq invasion, and retribution followed," said Mr. Krieger, referring to weapons of mass destruction.

In court documents, the former officer says that he learned in 2003 that he was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation and accused of having sex with a female contact, a charge he denies. Eight months after learning of the investigation, he said in the court documents, the agency's inspector general's office informed him that he was under investigation for diverting to his own use money earmarked for payments to informants. He denies that, too.

The former officer's claims concerning his reporting on the Iraqi nuclear weapons program were not addressed in a report issued in March by the presidential commission that examined intelligence regarding such weapons in Iraq. He did not testify before the commission, Mr. Krieger said.

A former senior staff member of the commission said the panel was not aware of the officer's allegations. The claims were also not included in the 2004 report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on prewar intelligence. He and his lawyer met with staff members of that Senate committee in a closed-door session last December, months after the report was issued.

In his lawsuit, the former officer said that in the spring of 2001, he met with a valuable informant who had examined and purchased parts of Ir