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Expert says he was pressed to distort Iraq evidence

By Times Wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 25, 2003

WASHINGTON - A top State Department expert on chemical and biological weapons told congressional committees in closed-door hearings last week that he had been pressed to tailor his analysis on Iraq and other matters to conform with the Bush administration's views, the New York Times reported, citing congressional officials it did not name.

The officials described what they said was a dramatic moment at a House Intelligence Committee hearing last week when the weapons expert came forward to tell Congress he had felt such pressure.

By speaking out, they said, the senior intelligence expert, identified by several officials as Christian Westermann, became the first member of the intelligence community on active service to make this sort of admission.

Westermann told lawmakers last week that while he felt pressure, he never actually changed the wording of any of his intelligence reports.

Interrogations seek Speicher details

WASHINGTON - U.S. forces interrogating Iraqi prisoners are seeking details about the case of Navy pilot Michael Scott Speicher, missing since his jet was shot down on the opening night of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

Rumsfeld would not say whether there were any new clues to the fate of Speicher.

Members of the Iraq Survey Group, the 1,400-member team searching for weapons of mass destruction and former Iraqi leaders, are trying to track down Speicher, Rumsfeld said.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he welcomed news of the interrogations. "This is what they should have been doing all along," he said.

TURKEY: Turkey will open its military bases, ports and airports to the U.S.-led coalition for logistical support in the rebuilding of Iraq, officials said Tuesday. Turkey's parliament had blocked use of its territory for combat against neighboring Iraq, a decision that strained relations with the United States.

TOP LIEUTENANT: Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, the senior lieutenant to Saddam Hussein who was detained in Iraq last week obtained Belarussian passports for himself and others, possibly including Hussein's sons, two U.S. government officials said Tuesday. Mahmud is suspected by U.S. officials of having obtained the passports in Syria.

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