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Red Team, Part 5: The Red Team

by FMJ Mon May 15th, 2006 at 09:54:44 PM EST

In mid-September, Joe the WINPAC analyst contacted CIA's Counter Proliferation Division (CPD) for assistance in testing the tubes. (RS, p. 206) CPD recommended an individual from a group of "contractors" who had been providing CIA with "broad-based technical advice". (SSCI, p. 93). The Robb-Silberman Commission refers to the contractors as a red team. (RS, p. 211).


The red team's assessment would be the basis of CIA WINPAC's first extensive analysis of the tubes, published on September 30 with the unequivocal title, Iraq's Hunt for Aluminium Tubes: Evidence of a Renewed Uranium Enrichment Program. (The title of the red team's assessment is classified.) (RS, pp. 206; 211). The WINPAC paper would provide the majority position of the aluminum tube section of the NIE (SSCI, p. 93), although the NIE coordination meeting would take place on September 25 - five days before the WINPAC paper was published. The NIE, Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, was published just one day after the WINPAC paper, on October 1, 2002.

The red team began their analysis of the tubes on September 16. They were supplied with a "stack of documents" from the CIA and a sample aluminum tube for "visual examination" (RS, p. 211). The red team was not briefed by DOE analysts or provided with any of DOE's assessments. One member had been given a tutorial on 81mm rockets by a DOE analyst months earlier, but said that the conversation had been "pretty meaningless" at the time (SSCI, p. 94). The red team was, however, provided with NGIC's analysis of the tubes (it is unclear whether this was a new analysis by NGIC or this was the same text box from the November, 2001, Military Intelligence Digest supplement). The Senate Intelligence Committee would find later that the red team had been provided only with information that supported the assessment that the tubes were intended for gas centrifuges (SSCI, p. 138).

On September 17, one day after receiving CIA's `stack' of documents, the red team completed its report. The assessment gave the CIA the conclusion it was looking for: "the tubes are consistent with design requirements of gas centrifuge rotors." (SSCI, p. 94). The tubes could be used in a gas centrifuge. The NIE assessed that the 900 mm tubes would only have to be cut in half to make two 400mm rotors (RS, p. 210). The DOE's position that the tubes would require extensive modification before being suitable for centrifuge rotors, was relegated to a minority dissent (RS, p. 210).

The red team's assessment was, of course, flat wrong. The red team had resurrected and combined arguments from the July 2, 2001 `personnel' assessment and the November 30, 2001 MID supplement. According to the red team, the tubes could be used in centrifuges because their dimensions resembled rotors for both Joe's Zippe Frankenstein and the Beams centrifuge (SSCI, p. 109). The internal diameter matched Zippe's 3" rotor. The external diameter matched Zippe's 4" rotor. The length and wall thickness matched the Beams rotor. The red team claimed that the Iraqis were constructing some kind of Zippe-Beams hybrid centrifuge.

A Zippe-Beams hybrid centrifuge would never have enriched a gram of uranium in a million years. However, the red team appear to have been unaware of this, or perhaps unconcerned. Regardless, the team's mission was accomplished. The CIA received the answer the administration wanted. The majority position of the NIE assessed that the tubes could be used as centrifuge rotors without modification.

Because of the red team's report, NGIC was able to argue in the NIE that the tubes' tolerances were "excessive" and it was therefore highly unlikely they were intended for a rocket program (SSCI, p. 100). If the DOE had provided the NIE's majority position, the tubes' tolerances would have been irrelevant whatever they were. DOE had assessed that the tubes could not be used in gas centrifuges without first thinning their walls. If the wall thickness had to be decreased by one to two millimeters before the tubes could be used, then there was no point specifying the tolerance to 0.1 millimeters. The Robb-Silberman Commission found that NGIC's position gave "greater confidence" to analysts who had judged the tubes were intended for centrifuges (RS, p. 56). If the tubes' walls had to have been machined, then the tolerance of the tubes - and NGIC's argument - would have been erased.

WINPAC's September 30 paper, Iraq's Hunt for Aluminum Tubes, was based on the red team's analysis and provided the NIE's majority position on the aluminum tubes. However, the WINPAC assessment was not the only finished intelligence product that was published around that time. DIA published its own assessment of the tubes in Iraq's Reemerging Nuclear Weapons Program, which also concluded the tubes were most likely intended for a gas centrifuge program (SSCI, p. 93). The exact publication date of the DIA paper is uncertain. The report of the Robb-Silberman Commission references many intelligence assessments and almost all of them are cited along with the month, day and year they were published. Unfortunately, the DIA paper is only ever cited to "Sept. 2002" (e.g. RS, pp. 205; 206), except in one instance when the date is given as "Aug. 7, 2002" (RS, p. 209). For its part, the SSCI report only ever refers to the publication of DIA's assessment in "September, 2002" (e.g. SSCI, p. 95). Whenever it was published, DIA's `September' assessment provided the rest of the NIE's nuclear reconstitution section that had not been provided by WINPAC's paper of September 30 (SSCI, p. 95).

The September DIA and WINPAC papers shared a number of key arguments. Like the NESA assessment, Iraq: Expanding WMD Capabilities Pose Growing Threat published on August 1, 2002, both DIA and WINPAC concluded that the tubes' material - 7075-T6 aluminum - suggested a nuclear end-use (RS, p. 67; SSCI, p. 93). Both DIA and WINPAC referenced NGIC's assessment that the tubes were highly unlikely to be intended for rocket motor bodies (RS, p. 67; 206). Most importantly, both DIA and WINPAC concluded that the tubes' specifications were consistent with gas centrifuge rotor designs (SSCI, p. 93). There was, however, a subtle difference between the two assessments. For the WINPAC paper, the red team combined arguments from the `personnel' assessment from July, 2001 and the November, 2001 MID supplement to concoct a Zippe-Beams `hybrid' centrifuge. The DIA paper, on the other hand, stated just that the tubes' "specifications [were] consistent with late-1980s Iraqi gas centrifuge rotor designs" (SSCI, p. 93). [Author's emphasis] Like the MID supplement, the it appears the DIA paper compared the Iraqi tubes to the Beams design only.

I suspect that the red team was behind both DIA's `September' paper and DIA's MID supplement. When CIA's CPD requested that the red team assist Joe's `testing' of the tubes on September 16, they were provided each others' research. Joe and the red team combined their assessments for WINPAC's September 30 paper and thus provided the majority position on the tubes in the October NIE. If Joe and the `personnel' were also part of a red team (and I suspect that they were), then the NIE's tubes analysis was a red team exercise from start to finish.

The DIA's `September' paper and MID supplement have one additional element in common besides both being likely red team assessments. The `September' paper is classified SCI as well (RS, p. 206).

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