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U.S. Asks for Investigation of Alleged Intelligence Breach

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has asked the Russian government to investigate reports that it passed intelligence about the U.S. military to Saddam Hussein's military in Iraq.

The Pentagon says captured Iraqi documents indicate the Russian Ambassador in Baghdad, was giving the Iraqis information about U.S. military plans and troop movements, just before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

NPR's Vicky O'Hara reports.

VICKY O'HARA reporting:

Secretary Rice told a Senate sub-committee yesterday that she's examining the documents which were revealed in a Pentagon assessment of what Iraqi leaders were thinking before and during the war.

Secretary CONDOLEEZZA RICE (United States Secretary of State): I have talked with the Russian Foreign Minister and asked them to look into this and to take it very seriously. We take very seriously any implication that someone might have been passing information that endangered the operation at the outset of the war. We will look for an answer back from the Russian government once, hopefully, they've had a chance to look into it.

O'HARA: Moscow opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but its Defense Minister, Sergei Ivanov, told a news conference yesterday, that any reports that Russia gave such intelligence to Iraq are complete rubbish.

The Pentagon's assessment of Iraqi perspectives on the war, is based on Iraqi documents and interviews with captured Iraqi officials. The declassified version of that assessment was released last Friday.

It says that one document suggests, that in the days leading up to the war, the Russians had a source inside the U.S. Central Command in Kadhar(ph). Yet a spokesman for U.S. Central Command based in Tampa says that there has been no investigation of the matter.

General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing yesterday the Defense Department has a lot of questions about the documents, starting with the accuracy of the translations.

General PETER PACE (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, United States): We don't know whether this, if this is real information or disinformation. There's all kinds of pieces of this that need to be looked into.

O'HARA: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told reporters he first heard about the allegation concerning Russia a few days ago, but he said it merits looking into. But reporters pressed the Defense Secretary on why the Pentagon would include such volatile material in a declassified report if there were doubts about its veracity.

This was his response.

Secretary DONALD RUMSFELD (United States Secretary of Defense): The idea that we're supposed to know what's going to be in every single document report that comes out of this department is obviously--it doesn't quite appreciate the hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of reports that are put out.

O'HARA: Rumsfeld said the public should get ready for more revelations from Iraq, because the federal government has agreed to put hundreds of thousands of documents seized in Iraq on the internet.

Republican leaders in Congress asked that the documents be posted in the hope that they would yield new information about the fate of Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear programs. Rumsfeld suggests that the process could be chaotic.

Secretary RUMSFELD: These things are mostly in Arabic and they're going to be put out by the government of the United States--without, in many cases, having been read, or translated, or analyzed, or checked.

O'HARA: Rumsfeld predicted that some of the information will be accurate, and some will not.

Secretary RUMSFELD: Some will be rumors, some will be speculation, and people will have an opportunity to let the truth win out over time.

O'HARA: Hundreds of the documents already have been posted on a Pentagon website. But there are some 55,000 boxes, enough material to keep analysts busy for years.

Vicky O'Hara, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Vicky O'Hara
Victoria (Vicky) O'Hara is a diplomatic correspondent for NPR. Her coverage of the State Department and foreign policy issues can be heard on the award-winning Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition as well as on NPR's newscasts.