Intelligence no ‘slam dunk’: US officials

Intelligence no ‘slam dunk’: US officials

WASHINGTON - The Associated Press
Intelligence no ‘slam dunk’: US officials

Chuck Hagel has said US forces are ready to act if Obama gives the order. AFP photo

The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar al-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 al-Assad himself ordered the strike, U.S. intelligence officials said.

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.

Intelligence officials said they could not pinpoint the exact locations of al-Assad’s supplies of chemical weapons, and al-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 al-Assad’s military infrastructure could hit newly hidden supplies of chemical weapons, accidentally triggering a deadly chemical attack.

Over the past six months, 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. official and three other U.S. officials briefed on the intelligence shared by the White House.