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NBC News
updated 9/12/2003 1:16:59 PM ET 2003-09-12T17:16:59

Where are Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction? Next week, the administration’s point man for the search, David Kay, returns to Washington with a status report.

THE HUNT for weapons of mass destruction, so far, has been a bust. Intelligence officials told NBC News there is no smoking gun. They thought they’d discovered a biological weapons lab, but it wasn’t one.

A massive CIA investigation, led by former U.N. weapons inspector Kay, is turning up only what former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein planned — not what he produced.

“He’s not finding the kinds of things the administration expected to find — large quantities of biological and chemical weapons or evidence that they were destroyed prior to the war,” said David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector.

WHERE ARE THE WMDS?

Secretary of State Colin Powell, on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, still insisted weapons of mass destruction will be found: “They will see that there was no question that such weapons exist, existed, and so did the programs to develop more.”

According to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking at a National Press Club luncheon Wednesday, “I think that the U.S. intelligence and the intelligence services of the other countries were never perfect, and it was a closed society, but sufficiently good that we’ll find the kind of evidence of programs that Secretary Powell presented to the United Nations.”

SEARCH CONTINUES

U.S. officials told NBC News that Navy divers are beginning to search a reservoir in northern Iraq after reports of barrels at the bottom that could contain chemical weapons or missile parts.

And two former Iraqi officials have told the United States that Iraq was hiding Scud missiles in a railroad tunnel as late as 2002. But they say they were blown up before U.N. inspectors could find them.

Iraqis have also told the United States that Saddam planned to rebuild a nuclear program if sanctions were lifted.

But the CIA’s best evidence so far of nuclear equipment is plans for a centrifuge, buried in a garden 12 years ago after the first Iraq war.

What about those unmanned planes the United States said could have been used to spray biological or chemical weapons? An Air Force report from October says they were never built for that purpose:

“Baghdad’s UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] could threaten Iraq’s neighbors, U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, and if brought close to, or into, the United States, the U.S. Homeland. An Iraqi UAV procurement network attempted to procure commercially available route planning software and an associated topographic database that would be able to support targeting of the United States, according to analysis of special intelligence. The Director, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, U.S. Air Force, does not agree that Iraq is developing UAVs primarily intended to be delivery platforms for chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents. The small size of Iraq’s new UAV strongly suggests a primary role of reconnaissance, although CBW delivery is an inherent capability.”

Despite the failed search, at Fort Stewart, Ga., on Friday, President Bush again raised the specter of Saddam’s weapons: “Because of our military, catastrophic weapons will no longer be in the hands of a reckless dictator.”

But members of his national security team are now saying removing Saddam was justification enough for the war — that he himself was a weapon of mass destruction.

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