Documents: To Saddam, From Mars

National intelligence Director John Negroponte shut down a government Web site after the disclosure that it had posted nuclear-research documents from Iraq's pre-Gulf War I weapons program. Set up in March at the insistence of congressional GOPers, the site was designed to post documents seized by the U.S. military in Iraq. But many were trivial memos and oddball letters: a telephone-repair request from an Iraqi military agency, copies of the 1987 Baghdad phone book, an Islamic Web-site article claiming the United States was developing weapons designed to sexually arouse soldiers, a 2001 letter to Saddam Hussein from a woman seeking money to preserve the planet "Iquestra" (she described herself as a commander of the Martians).

Why were taxpayer dollars spent on such a project? Late last year House intel-committee chair Pete Hoekstra and Senate intel chair Pat Roberts pressed Negroponte's office to make the Iraqi docs available. They and others, including The Weekly Standard magazine, said the material might show Saddam did have WMD or ties to Al Qaeda. So the Defense Intelligence Agency began to review 48,000 boxes of material, located in a U.S. military warehouse in Doha, Qatar, and started posting it on an Operation Iraqi Freedom Web site. DIA spokesman Don Black said several hundred analysts, linguists, translators and contractors took part, weeding out diplomatically sensitive docs or those mentioning the names of U.S. persons (a potential violation of the U.S. Privacy Act).

Outside of a few conservative bloggers, the Web site got little attention until The New York Times revealed last week that the site had posted documents showing diagrams and drawings from Iraq's early-'90s nuclear program that might be useful to those seeking to develop a bomb. Negroponte closed the site. Meanwhile, Black admits no docs have turned up altering the postwar intel view that Saddam had no WMD and no working relationship with Al Qaeda at the time of the 2003 U.S. invasion.