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May 21, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Early warning
John A. Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, warned months ago that Iraq's hidden weapons of mass destruction may be intermingled with its huge stocks of conventional arms.

Mr. Shaw wrote an Oct. 28 letter to Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command, asking for the command's help in tracking down companies and individuals who violated U.S. law and the international arms embargo by shipping arms to Saddam Hussein's regime.

Mr. Shaw stated in the letter that he had information showing "there is a high probability of [weapons of mass destruction] munitions being intermingled everywhere in Iraq with conventional weapons."

That scenario played this month when two chemical munitions one containing the blister agent mustard and one containing the nerve agent sarin were found by U.S. forces in Iraq.

The improvised bomb found Saturday was a 155 mm artillery shell that insurgents apparently did not know was filled with two chemicals that make sarin when the round is fired. The shell partially exploded and a small quantity of sarin was released, slightly injuring two U.S. soldiers.

Funding shortfall
Defense and military officials are scrambling throughout the Pentagon to find money to help pay for the war in Iraq.

The funding shortfall for this year is in the hundreds of millions.

The military estimates that it will be $4 billion short in next year's operating accounts.

Defense officials tell us that aides to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld are looking at all areas of the defense budget and plan to raid arms programs and operations and maintenance accounts to pay for the war.

The main fear of many weapons builders is that the budget reprogramming will seriously damage ongoing weapons development and production and shut down entire production lines if the money meant for the programs is taken away.

Syrian weapons
Syria's rogue status has been elevated again. Its long history of occupying Lebanon and supporting terror groups has been augmented by new misdeeds: facilitating the movement of foreign terrorists from its soil to Iraq to kill Americans and Iraqis.

It now faces new U.S. economic sanctions. We thought it would be a good time to disclose how the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) assesses Syria's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. It's contained in a secret DIA report disclosed for the first time in "Rumsfeld's War: The Untold Story of America's Anti-Terrorist Commander," a new book by Rowan Scarborough, a reporter for The Washington Times and one of this column's writers.

The DIA states:

"Currently those countries that have a delivery capability for both chemical and biological agents include Russia, Iraq, China and North Korea. Iran has a chemical weapons capability and probably a limited biological agent delivery means; Libya, Egypt, India, Taiwan, Israel, South Korea and Syria have chemical weapons capabilities. ... Moreover, Libya, Syria and Pakistan probably can produce biological agents on a limited scale and presumably have some means of delivery even if not by military systems."

Donnelly's victory
It was certainly a significant legal victory for Elaine Donnelly and her Center for Military Readiness. And it could also be one of the First Amendment's and the press's more important court wins, even for reporters who sided with Mrs. Donnelly's legal opponent.

This week, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Carey Dunai Lohrenz, who sued Mrs. Donnelly for libel. Mrs. Donnelly, based on internal training documents and a Navy instructor pilot (now-retired Lt. Patrick J. Burns), put out a report accusing the Navy of granting Mrs. Lohrenz favors in 1995 to graduate her as one of the military's first female combat fighter pilots.

Mrs. Lohrenz and the Navy denied the report.

The lawsuit went on for eight years, costing Mrs. Donnelly $630,000 in legal fees. A U.S. District Court judge dismissed Mrs. Lohrenz's suit. He ruled that she, as a pioneering pilot, was a public figure and failed, as required, to prove actual malice on the part of Mrs. Donnelly. A federal appeals court agreed on Dec. 12. Its opinion went one step further, saying Mrs. Donnelly had good reason to believe her report was true.

Said the appeals court, "By the time she published The Donnelly Report, Donnelly also had portions of Lt. Lohrenz's training records that supported Lt. Burns' assertion that the Navy made special accommodations for Lt. Lohrenz."

Then, the Supreme Court this week delivered a final victory. There are no more avenues for appeal.

Mrs. Donnelly told us yesterday, "It's a great relief. It's a victory for the First Amendment and naval aviation for high standards in training. That's what this was always about. And I wish there were a better way for someone who knows the standards. I wish there was a better way for them to be heard, instead of coming to a civilian like me, who ends up spending $630,000 to defend my First Amendment rights to publish the truth about what happened."

Hersh's attacks
Seymour Hersh has lobbed another bomb at Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his staff in the New Yorker magazine. This time, the Pulitzer Prize winner says Mr. Rumsfeld is responsible for prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib prison because the secretary wants terrorists killed or captured. The Pentagon vehemently denied the charge, and the CIA called the story "fundamentally wrong."

This is not the first time Mr. Hersh and Mr. Rumsfeld have clashed. Mr. Rumsfeld has called some of Mr. Hersh's reporting "fiction."

Take, for instance, a May 12 , 2003, story that accused Mr. Rumsfeld's staff of being a "cabal." The Pentagon believed the article was so inaccurate it mailed a protest letter on June 9 to New Yorker Editor David Remnick.

"I am writing to express my concern over the inaccuracies in your May 12 Seymour Hersh story on Secretary Rumsfeld and the Department of Defense," wrote Bryan G. Whitman, a senior public affairs official. "There are more inaccuracies than can be addressed in this letter, and it is particularly disappointing given the time and effort taken by my staff to ensure The New Yorker has its facts straight prior to publication.

"During the week of April 28, my staff received from a New Yorker fact-checker a fax with 20 questions regarding the Office of Special Plans and Abe Shulsky, the former director of that office. Mr. Shulsky sat down with those press officers over a period of two days to answer those questions. Once the answers were compiled, they were sent by fax to The New Yorker and their receipt confirmed. When the article appeared the following week, we were disturbed to see that many of the answers provided were left out. In fact, in some instances, the article made statements in direct contradiction to the facts we provided. ... I do hope that you will ensure that this kind of lapse does not recur."

Mr. Remnick, a former reporter for The Washington Post, has stood by his reporter.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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