Tuesday, March 28, 2006

U.S. Is Not Probing Iraqi Leak Claims

By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post Staff Writer
Washington Post
March 28, 2006

The U.S. military's Central Command said yesterday it has not opened an investigation into whether sources inside the command leaked details of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq to Russian officials, and distanced itself from captured Iraqi documents that contain the allegations.

A U.S. military study released Friday quoted two Iraqi documents that described how Russian officials -- drawing on "their sources inside the American Central Command in Doha" -- provided intelligence on U.S. troop movements and war plans to Saddam Hussein as U.S. forces attacked in March and April 2003.

A Central Command official said the command takes "all matters of operational security seriously" but was not probing the allegations.

"Centcom has not opened an investigation at this time," said Capt. Christopher Augustine, a spokesman for the Tampa-based command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East and other areas.

In e-mailed statements in response to questions, Centcom cast doubt upon the validity of the captured Iraqi documents: "It's important to remember that the information came from an Iraqi intelligence report.

"Central command does not vouch for the document's accuracy or authenticity," the statement said.

During the buildup of U.S. forces in Kuwait before the invasion of Iraq, Centcom noted, speculation was widespread about "what might or might not be planned."

Such views contrast with those of the authors of the 210-page Iraqi Perspectives Project study released Friday by the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk. They said they believe the Iraqi documents are authentic. Retired Lt. Col. Kevin M. Woods, the project director, said he had "no reason to doubt the Iraqi documents."

On Saturday, Russia's foreign intelligence service called the allegations in the documents "baseless accusations" and "fabrications," and denied that Russian officials gave Hussein information on the U.S. military operations in Iraq.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a television interview Sunday that the Bush administration would take "a real hard look at the documents and then raise it with the Russian government."

Yesterday, Central Command indicated that it would defer to State on the matter. "According to Secretary of State Rice, the State Department will address the issue through appropriate channels," its statement said.

Augustine, the Central Command spokesman, said no one in his office knew of the existence of the Iraqi documents before the study's release on Friday, and that it was "highly possible" the military released them without prior vetting by Central Command.

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