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Did the CIA just mess up on Iraq's 'weapons of mass destruction'?

Recently-declassified CIA documents blame 'analyst liabilities' for mistakenly concluding that Saddam Hussein had chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs – the rationale for invading Iraq. But some say the situation was more sinister.

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Secretary of State Colin Powell holds up a vial that he said could contain anthrax as he presents evidence of Iraq's alleged weapons programs to the United Nations Security Council in 2003.

Elise Amendola/AP

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Remember those “weapons of mass destruction?” How chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs were said to be part of Saddam Hussein’s arsenal – posited as the rationale for invading Iraq in the wake of 9/11, along with the belief that the Iraqi dictator somehow was helping Al Qaeda?

After a massive US-led invasion in 2003 and 4,486 American service men and women lost in Iraq over the years, the images remain:

Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell holding up a small vial of something meant to look sinister as he addressed the UN Security Council. President George W. Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice acknowledging "some uncertainty" in Iraq’s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon but warning, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." Then-CIA Director George Tenet telling President Bush there was a “slam dunk case” regarding such weapons programs in Iraq.

Such weapons were never found. And now, it seems, there’s been a “remarkable CIA mea culpa” regarding those WMD. That’s the conclusion of a report by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

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