US Officials Contradict Obama, Say It’s Unclear Who Committed Chemical Attack

The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack is no "slam dunk," officials say.
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    WASHINGTON  — The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed at least 100 people is no “slam dunk,” with questions remaining about who actually controls some of Syria’s chemical weapons stores and doubts about whether Assad himself ordered the strike, U.S. intelligence officials say.

    President Barack Obama declared unequivocally Wednesday that the Syrian government was responsible, while laying the groundwork for an expected U.S. military strike.

    “We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out,” Obama said in an interview with “NewsHour” on PBS. “And if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences.”

    However, multiple U.S. officials used the phrase “not a slam dunk” to describe the intelligence picture — a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet’s insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a “slam dunk” — intelligence that turned out to be wrong.

    A report by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence outlining that evidence against Syria is thick with caveats. It builds a case that Assad’s forces are most likely responsible while outlining gaps in the U.S. intelligence picture. Relevant congressional committees were to be briefed on that evidence by teleconference call on Thursday, U.S. officials and congressional aides said.

    The complicated intelligence picture raises questions about the White House’s full-steam-ahead approach to the Aug. 21 attack on a rebel-held Damascus suburb, with worries that the attack could be tied to al-Qaida-backed rebels later. Administration officials said Wednesday that neither the U.N. Security Council, which is deciding whether to weigh in, or allies’ concerns would affect their plans.

    Intelligence officials say they could not pinpoint the exact locations of Assad’s supplies of chemical weapons, and Assad could have moved them in recent days as U.S. rhetoric builds. That lack of certainty means a possible series of U.S. cruise missile strikes aimed at crippling Assad’s military infrastructure could hit newly hidden supplies of chemical weapons, accidentally triggering a deadly chemical attack.

    Over the past six months, with shifting front lines in the 2½-year-old civil war and sketchy satellite and human intelligence coming out of Syria, U.S. and allied spies have lost track of who controls some of the country’s chemical weapons supplies, according to one senior U.S. intelligence official and three other U.S. officials briefed on the intelligence shared by the White House as reason to strike Syria’s military complex. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the Syrian issue publicly.

    U.S. satellites have captured images of Syrian troops moving trucks into weapons storage areas and removing materials, but U.S. analysts have not been able to track what was moved or, in some cases, where it was relocated. They are also not certain that when they saw what looked like Assad’s forces moving chemical supplies, those forces were able to remove everything before rebels took over an area where weapons had been stored.

    In addition, an intercept of Syrian military officials discussing the strike was among low-level staff, with no direct evidence tying the attack back to an Assad insider or even a senior Syrian commander, the officials said.

    So while Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that links between the attack and the Assad government are “undeniable,” U.S. intelligence officials are not so certain that the suspected chemical attack was carried out on Assad’s orders, or even completely sure it was carried out by government forces, the officials said.

    Ideally, the White House seeks intelligence that links the attack directly to Assad or someone in his inner circle to rule out the possibility that a rogue element of the military decided to use chemical weapons without Assad’s authorization. Another possibility that officials would hope to rule out: that stocks had fallen out of the government’s control and were deployed by rebels in a callous and calculated attempt to draw the West into the war.

    The U.S. has devoted only a few hundred operatives, between intelligence officers and soldiers, to the Syrian mission, with CIA and Pentagon resources already stretched by the counterterrorism missions in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the continuing missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said.

    The quest for added intelligence to bolster the White House’s case for a strike against Assad’s military infrastructure was the issue that delayed the release of the U.S. intelligence community’s report, which had been expected Tuesday.

    The uncertainty calls into question the statements by Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden.

    “We know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons,” Kerry said. “We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place.”

    On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said it didn’t really matter whether the administration knew those details with total certainty.

    “We ultimately, of course, hold President Assad responsible for the use of chemical weapons by his regime against his own people, regardless of where the command and control lies,” Harf said.

    The CIA, the Pentagon and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

    Still, many U.S. lawmakers believe there is reasonable certainty Assad’s government was responsible and are pressing the White House to go ahead with an armed response.

    “Based on available intelligence, there can be no doubt the Assad regime is responsible for using chemical weapons on the Syrian people,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Short of putting troops on the ground, I believe a meaningful military response is appropriate.”

    Others, both Democrats and Republicans, have expressed serious concern with the expected military strike.

    British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday that all the evidence points in one direction.

    “There is no evidence that any opposition group in Syria has the capability let alone the desire to launch such a large-scale chemical attack,” Hague told British broadcaster Sky News.

    Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has recalled Parliament to debate the issue Thursday.

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    • Drew Bright

      “Such a large-scale chemical attack” needed sophisticated organization to carry out?! 100 people died – maybe. What about the subway sarin attacks in Japan? One religious zealot is all such an attack requires. Instead of wasting $300 million, minimum, for a limited strike, why dont we build housing, give food/clothing/medicine to the Syrian people, then see how our coalition candidate would fare in a free election, use UN pressure on Assad to force open election. No, that wouldnt support GD or BA or Halliburton stock prices. Yeh, just bomb em.

    • JimGlover

      If even the Pope says “No More War!” we should too and say it directly to the White House. My new message of the day:

      “President Obama, The Pope is saying “No More War” and you can start the process by talking with Putin now and Iran about what they want before you do something that will escalate the war.

      You should do what Bush did not do before you gave him immunity for his war crimes. We should join the International Criminal Court and bring charges against Assad at the UN if you think he is guilty. You are not the World’s Cop, Judge, Jury and executioner but you have the power to make peace even if Israel objects.”

      You will even get a “Thank you for contacting the White House.”

      Now everyone can let the White House know what is on our minds here and Please pass it on.

    • Don Smith

      Will mainstream press pick up on Dale Gavlack/Yahya Ababneh story of possible Saudi Prince Bandar delivery of sarin to rebels right before the deaths? If so was the gas “attack” an accident or deliberate attempt to rope American hawks into Iranian showdown? I’m not sure anyone in the West understands this region. I’m not sure the military industrial complex or the Israeli lobby has America’s best interests at heart.

    • Regula

      The US had enough intelligence in time to know that Assad didn’t use the chemical weapons. The whole thing was staged to begin with, hence Obama’s certainty about Assad’s fault. As the rebels break down and admit that they did use chemical weapons – and the inspectors may not have found the right chemical substances, despite Kerry’s assertions of sarin – the US starts to hesitate: if it turns out later on that Assad didn’t use the weapons it will be difficult to hide US complicity with their use by rebels. It would make the US at fault not just for the devastation of the planned missile attacks, but for all the deaths in Syria. It is no secret that the US financed, armed and trained the rebels jointly with the Saudis, already before the civil war started in earnest. The CIA was leading form behind before the first shots rang out in Syria. That would make the US complicit with al Qaida and Saudi machinations, which it is, but which it cannot admit. This is a struggle about interests in the Middle East – as to whether they will be American or Russian and as to whether the US will in fact still have any influence in the Middle East. The Syrian people – they only matter for PR for US inland consumption.

    • Bruce

      Chump and Chimp: FFBF (False Flag Bushsons Forever)!

    • Son of Squidward

      Obobo looks like he wants to give ol’ Bushie abig ol’ French kiss in that picture. Ugh.

    • JimGlover

      Israel will get hit big if Obama hits Assad. Some want that and it appears even Netanyahu is asking for it. So what happens after Obama bombs Syria? Maybe Congress will ask since Obama hasn’t. It has been reported from insiders that Obama will attack anyway if he doesn’t get the congressional vote.

      • Shahna

        Attack without congressional approval – after congress has said No?
        Then where will he live when he is no longer pressie?

        Won’t be safe at home when the Syria Fiasco goes south and turns into nice war with Americans in bodybags – and overseas he’ll be an international criminal for breaking international law?

        Perhaps Davie Cameron will give him his garden shed?

    • Pingback: US Officials Contradict Obama, Say It’s Unclear Who Committed Chemical Attack. The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack is no “slam dunk,” officials say. | Random Candid()

    • Pingback: US Officials Contradict Obama, Say It’s Unclear Who Committed Chemical Attack The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack is no “slam dunk,” officials say. | Random Candida()

    • Pingback: US Officials Contradict Obama, Say It’s Unclear Who Committed Chemical Attack The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack is no “slam dunk,” officials say. | Random Candida()

    • John Friend

      No more wars for Israel and the Jews! Bring our troops home immediately and have them march right on DC to arrest Obama and his entire administration!

    • chrisalien

      Any excuse…Kerry is a liar. fullstop. The Chems were done by the terrorists. Fullstop. All claims contrary are PR by the US/UK/ Fr /Saudi etc. Fullstop. The Syrian people know who to rally with. Fullstop. It appears, if only briefly, that the British house of Commons has a moral soul and has seen through the bullshit!!. fullstop. Can it last. Fullstop.

      • Shahna

        Kerry is more than a liar – he’s a fool who thinks threatening bluster will work because “America said it.”

        Threatening Russia over Snowden.
        Now threatening everyone over Syria.
        …Mother shoulda tossed him out instead instead of the bathwater.
        Water is recyclable – murderous fools we have enough of.

    • Abbass

      We knew before Iraq, the claims were total lies. Only those who wanted to believe otherwise were convinced. This time it is even more startlingly obvious that the lies are coming thick and fast. It is EASY to establish as a fact that the Syrian forces have not used a single chemical weapon. They have no need to do so, and have been doing just fine in sorting out the foreign backed terrorists inside their borders. Chemical weapons use was always going to be a cassus belli and lose them support from their few allies, including Russia and Iran, so using them at all, ket alone as blatantly as is now being asserted is just insane. Nothing about Assad or his government is apparently insane. However anybody who can convince themselves the government forces would use chemical weapons, against civilian targets is insane or deeply dishonest. However the clearly insane terrorists, who have been caught using chemical weapons many times and even make videos saying they will and have, are self evidently the culprits in this most transparently obvious provocation.

      • John

        I agree with your comment wholeheartedly. Bang on brother….

    • Fred Milton Olsen

      From the article:

      “However, multiple U.S. officials used the phrase “not a slam dunk” to describe the intelligence picture — a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet’s insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a “slam dunk” — intelligence that turned out to be wrong”

      I disagree. It wasn’t incorrect or a mistake, or “wrong”….. It was a plain lie.

    • folks talk

      Non of them cares about the Syrian because they look at them through the glasses of Bernard Lewis!. We need a war not to end the Syrian state,but to get ride from the elite around the world which their interests are to keep the volks more stupied than ever through their media productions which produce false accusation and stupied culture programs that worked like drugs to let the minds of the people sleep and be occupied with redicules, stupied little things and let them believe what they are fed. The interest of these elite only economic, you can calculate the benefits they are doing through these created wars around the world, from weapons traficking, human traficking, human organs traficking and prostitution traficking and drug traficking. Accually all what the law prohibited is allowed for them, because they are the law maker!

      • stingray

        You summed it in your second sentence, We need war…. thats it … nuff said

    • GreenHearted

      Here we go again. First Iraq, then Libya, now Syria. My gawd, if there is going to be no concern whatsoever for the truth, let alone the lives of all the people that this “humanitarian response” will kill or maim, at least these guys could use a little imagination!

      Why do they keep using the same unproven reason to attack? Why don’t they either (a) just attack (with enough warning for the Syrians to defend themselves), or (b) use a more creative reason? “Assad is making all his people do ballet in the streets — we must attack to defend their right to not dance.”

      I am so sick (and sickened, on behalf of this “enemy” and all future enemies of the United States and its toadies) of this f*cking charade. And I thought Kerry might be a little bit different from his war-mongering predecessors. Ha!

      • GON

        Take care of yourself GreenHearted don’t let it get to you, I was just as angry as you only a few months back but the world is slowly starting to wake up, all they are doing is damning themselves for all to see. Take heart GreenHeart and keep well.

        • Abbass

          The problem is we are not our governments. Almost all western governments are directly or indirectly controlled by the same tribal forces who must not be named.

          • MJ Darling

            The worldwide militant corpocracy–Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Gas, Big Arms, Big Elites.

            • Drew Bright


      • Bonehead

        … here’s some background info you may find enlightening (sickening, as well):

        “Former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark was quoted as saying that in
        the weeks after the 9/11 attack, he was told by a general serving on the
        Pentagon’s Joint Staff that the United States was going to take out
        seven countries in five years.”

        • DannyDan

          See my response below, it shows the video related to the article you posted @ 5:37

      • alligatrix

        Just because the faces change, doesn’t mean the underlying policy does. They are all cut from the same cloth.

      • DannyDan

        I often wonder if it is related to maintaining the USD as the world currency. Many of the countries that have been attacked were working on a gold standard which is not what central bankers want…

    • Pingback: Syrie : les médias occidentaux belliqueux mais discrédités. Démocratie : one point ! « GLOBAL RELAY NETWORK()

    • PatGinSD

      White man speaks with forked tongue