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Context of 'May 27, 2003: Pentagon-Sponsored Team Files Field Report Concluding that Trailers Not Designed to Make Biological Weapons'

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US authorities in Iraq seize a trailer at a checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul. The government will later claim that this trailer, as well as another one that is discovered on May 9 (see May 9, 2003), is a mobile biological weapons lab. [Houston Chronicle, 5/9/2003; ABC News, 5/21/2003]

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

The US Army’s 101st Airborne Division finds a suspicious looking trailer at al-Kindi, a former missile research facility in Iraq. US authorities suspect the trailer might be a biological weapons factory. Another suspect trailer was found by US forces three weeks earlier in Mosul (see April 19, 2003). [Houston Chronicle, 5/9/2003; US Department of Defense, 5/13/2003; ABC News, 5/21/2003] Senior Iraqi officials at the facility, as well as Iraqis working for the company that produced components for the trailers, say the trailers produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. [Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency, 5/28/2003]

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

A fact-finding mission sponsored by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency arrives in Baghdad to determine whether two trailers found in Iraq (see April 19, 2003; May 9, 2003) are meant for the production of biological weapons. The mission, known as the “Jefferson Project,” is led by a team of eight Americans and one Briton, all experts in the field of biological weapons. Each has “at least a decade of experience in one of the essential technical skills needed for bioweapons production,” according to the Washington Post. Within four hours, according to one of the team members, it becomes “clear to everyone that these [are] not biological labs.” News of the team’s assessment causes a controversy in Washington, where a CIA analyst has already authored a white paper (see May 28, 2003) calling the trailers “the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program.” [Washington Post, 4/12/2006]

Entity Tags: Jefferson Project

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

A Pentagon-sponsored fact-finding mission (see May 25, 2003) concludes in a three-page field report that two trailers recently found in Iraq (see April 19, 2003; May 9, 2003) have nothing to do with biological weapons. The report’s authors are nine US and British civilian scientists and engineers, all of whom have “extensive experience in all the technical fields involved in making bioweapons,” according to the Washington Post. The report’s conclusions are agreed upon by all the team’s members. In spite of the report’s conclusions, the CIA and DIA will go ahead with plans to publicly release a white paper (see May 28, 2003) alleging that the trailers are mobile biological weapons factories. Three weeks later, the team will report the details of its findings in a 122-page final report (see (June 18, 2003)). [Washington Post, 4/12/2006]

Entity Tags: Jefferson Project

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

The CIA publicly releases a 6-page white paper titled “Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants” concluding that the two trailers discovered in northern Iraq (see April 19, 2003) (see May 9, 2003) were designed to produce biological weapons—directly contradicting the conclusion of a field report filed the previous day by biological weapons experts working in Iraq (see May 27, 2003). The report—the US government’s first formal assessment of the trailers—calls the discovery of the trailers the “strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program.” It is based on a comparison of the trailers to descriptions that had been provided by Iraqi sources prior to the invasion. Though the report claims that there are no other plausible explanations for the trailers’ purpose, it does acknowledge that senior Iraqi officials at the al-Kindi research facility in Mosul, as well as a company that manufactured components for the trailers, say the trailers were built to make hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. The report calls this a “cover story.” [Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency, 5/28/2003; New York Times, 6/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 6/21/2003; New York Times, 6/26/2003] Though the report was authored by the CIA, there is a DIA logo printed on the paper to indicate that the DIA backs the report’s conclusions. But most DIA analysts do not. When the CIA was unable to convince DIA analysts to sign the paper, according to book Hubris, they contacted the one DIA analyst who did agree with their position, and got his approval to place the DIA logo on the white paper. “We were tricked,” one DIA analyst later explains. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 228] It is later learned that the report was completed before the investigation had run its full course. A week after the report’s release, laboratories in the Middle East and the United States were still analyzing more than 100 samples that had been taken from the trailers. A senior analyst tells the New York Times that the white paper “was a rushed job and looks political.” [New York Times, 6/7/2003] It is also discovered that the two agencies did not consult with other intelligence offices. Normally such reports are not finalized until there is a consensus among the government’s numerous intelligence agencies. “The exclusion of the State Department’s intelligence bureau [INR] and other agencies seemed unusual, several government officials said, because of the high-profile subject,” the New York Times will later report. Moreover, the State Department’s intelligence agency was not even informed that the report was being prepared. [New York Times, 6/26/2003] When INR analysts read the report, they go “ballistic.” INR intelligence chief Carl Ford Jr. will later say of the report’s authors, “It wasn’t just that it was wrong. They lied.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 228]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Defense Intelligence Agency, Carl W. Ford, Jr.

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

A Pentagon-sponsored fact-finding mission (see May 25, 2003) completes its final report on a three-week long investigation of the two trailers that were found in Iraq in April and May (see April 19, 2003; May 9, 2003). The team, led by American and British biological weapons experts, determined (see May 27, 2003) that the trailers were not intended to produce biological weapons, as top US and British government officials, including both President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, have publicly stated. According to sources interviewed by the Washington Post, members of the team were asked to alter the conclusions of the 122-page report. “The questioners generally wanted to know the same thing: Could the report’s conclusions be softened, to leave open a possibility that the trailers might have been intended for weapons?” [Washington Post, 4/12/2006]

Entity Tags: Jefferson Project

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

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