The real story on WMDs needs to be told -- but carefully

Posted: Jun 22, 2006 12:01 AM
Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra have spent a lot of years in Washington, D.C., and both are very familiar with the agendas at work in the intelligence agencies. Both are also skilled in the use of information that can be disclosed while protecting information that has to be concealed.

So when the pair announced on the first day of summer that they had been provided a classified report on WMDs discovered in Iraq after the invasion, and that Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte had provided an unclassified summary, they began the very constrained effort to alert the public that the story line on WMD in Iraq is incorrect.

Because of the classified nature of the original report on WMD, Santorum and Hoekstra could only convey very basic facts, the two most important of which are:

More than 500 WMDs have been discovered post invasion.

The terrorists -- like Coalition forces -- are looking for WMDs.

Because Senator Santorum is in a re-election battle, the immediate reaction of the Beltway press corps was to dismiss this announcement as little more than a campaign stunt, a reaction that ignores Hoekstra's involvement as well as his and Santorum's long push for more transparency regarding Iraq from the intelligence community.

Some usual suspects --anonymous of course-- were called by Washington Post and other reporters, and the announcement filed under the "doesn't matter" category, where it will remain unless the Administration wants more information to surface.

Here's what we need to know:

Did Saddam and/or his inner circle know where these WMD had been hidden?

How did we find them?

Answers to just those two questions will provide extremely crucial information to a public still intensely and rightly interested in the case for war in 2003.

And the Bush Administration should want the whole record out, no matter what it shows. Though there may be some danger of assisting terrorists in their hunt for other caches of buried WMD, the facts surrounding these finds ought to be able to be disclosed in such a fashion as to serve both the need for the public to understand the entire picture and of course to keep other as-yet-undiscovered WMD out of terrorist hands.