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Saddam talked of WMD attack in U.S.

In tape recordings of Saddam Hussein captured after his fall from power, Saddam can be heard discussing weapons of mass destruction.  A dozen hours of these tapes have surfaced.  NBC's Lisa Myers reports.
/ Source: NBC News

Among the treasure trove of information captured after Saddam Hussein's fall were tape recordings of the Iraqi leader discussing weapons of mass destruction with top aides.

Transcripts of Saddam's tapes reviewed by NBC News show him ruminating about future terror attacks in the United States using weapons of mass destruction.

"We shouldn’t be surprised to see a car bomb with nuclear [material] explode [in] Washington, either germ or chemical," Saddam tells aides.  "So this is coming,” Saddam says on the tapes, “but not from Iraq," he adds, seeming to indicate that Iraq would not be the source of any such attack.

An unidentified Saddam aide replies that biological weapons are easy to construct: “… any biologist can make it in water tank and kill 100,000 person … so you can’t accuse a country, one person can do it. One American person can do it in a house, next to the White House.”

On another tape, Saddam says future terrorism will be with WMD. "It is possible in the future to see a booby trap and the explosion turns out to be nuclear, germ or chemical."

U.S. intelligence analysts have confirmed to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that Saddam’s voice on the audiotapes is authentic. The analysts believe most of the tapes were recorded in the ’90s, after the first Gulf War. 

“What the tapes show is that between the first gulf war and the second gulf war, Saddam Hussein had not lost his appetite for, or interest in, weapons of mass destruction,” says Gary Milhollin of the Wisconsin Project, an advocacy group working to slow the spread of weapons of mass destruction. “To the contrary, he was almost obsessed by them.’’

Importantly, though, many U.S. intelligence experts say the 12 hours of tape does not solve the riddle of whether Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 U.S. invasion.

“It certainly shows that he was trying to deceive the U.N., but it doesn't show that he actually had weapons in his possession at the time of the invasion,” says Bill Harlow, a former CIA spokesman and an NBC News analyst.

In the transcripts, one of Saddam’s aides discusses filling missiles with germs. “Yes, the intention is that the missile will be filled with chemical or germ, and when it comes down it will cover a wider circle than the traditional missile,” the aide tells Saddam. Saddam replies: “That’s good, they are teaching us things that will be useful in the future.”

Other aides seem to discuss hiding weapons from U.N. inspectors. “We have not told them the truth about the imported material,” one says. He adds, “Where was the nuclear material transported to? A number of them were transported out of Iraq.” He also says: “We will confess, but not to the biological program.”

The debates over Iraq’s WMD will likely continue. The House Intelligence Committee is pressing U.S. intelligence officials to publicly release more than 35,000 boxes of documents recovered in Iraq after the U.S. invasion. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., does not believe the documents have been fully translated and analyzed. 

John Loftus, an author and former federal prosecutor, obtained the Saddam audiotapes through a former U.S. military intelligence analyst, he says. Loftus tells NBC News he will play the tapes this weekend at an intelligence summit he is hosting in the Washington area.

NBC News has not listened to the tapes and has not been able to independently confirm the accuracy of the translations.

Lisa Myers is NBC's senior investigative correspondent.