Bush regime backpedals on bioweapons allegation

Campaign News | Saturday, 18 September 2004

In wake of Iraq fiasco report plays down alleged threat of Cuban biotech

Washington - The Bush regime following its embarrassment over the Iraq war and the revelation that Iraq never had WMD, is beginning to back pedal on some of its other accusations regarding weapons threats from other countries including Cuba.

Reports in the US on Septmeber 18 said that the Bush administraion is now using "new stringent standards" adopted after the failure to find banned weapons in Iraq, and has conducted a new assessment of Cuba's biological weapons capabilities and concluded that it is "no longer clear" that Cuba has an active, offensive bio-weapons program, according to officials.

The latest assessment contradicts a 1999 National Intelligence Estimate and past statements by top administration officials, some of whom have warned that Cuba may be sharing its weapons capability with "rogue states" or terrorists.

It is the latest indication that in the wake of the Iraq intelligence failures, the CIA and other intelligence agencies are taking a closer look at earlier threat assessments and finding fault with some of the conclusions and the way the reports were prepared.

The new assessment says the intelligence community "continues to believe that Cuba has the technical capability to pursue some aspects of an offensive biological weapons program," according to an intelligence official.

Administration officials said the new assessment had been prepared at the request of the State Department for a report it will be making to Congress and that it had adopted tougher standards because the assessment on Iraq had been proved wrong.

"The new assessment is the product of a fresh, hard look at the reporting, " said an intelligence official. He added that the new standards were "exceptionally stringent in how we treat our sources, evidence and analysis."

The Bush administration's assessment accusing Cuba of producing germs for possible biological warfare has been disputed since it was disclosed in the spring of 2002.

Cuba angrily rebutted the charges, and experts have protested that Cuba's large pharmaceutical industry involved conventional activities and materials that were misinterpreted as a threat.

In March 2002, John Bolton, undersecretary of state for nonproliferation, asserted that "the United States believed that Cuba had at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort" and had also "provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states."

A month later, he escalated his comments that Cuba "remained a terrorist threat to the United States and that its biological weapons program should be seen in that light."

Bolton declined to comment on the revised assessment.

The new assessment was described by an intelligence official and a second government official. Both said they had been briefed on it. They spoke on condition that their names and agencies not be identified.

Both said they believe the new assessment is more accurate than the old one and reflectes a welcome effort by U.S. intelligence agencies, in the wake of the Iraq experience, to acknowledge uncertainties in their analysis.

At the time of Bolton's assessment in 2002, his office declined to elaborate on what sort of weapons might have been the focus of Cuba's program. Other administration officials were quoted in the New York Times as saying that Cuba had been experimenting with anthrax and other deadly pathogens that they declined to identify.

Cuba has a major drug and biotechnology program and has been involved in making vaccines for an extensive immunization program that has been widely praised by scientists and physicians. Many of these products are sold to other countries.


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