WASHINGTON – Declassified portions of a top-secret intelligence report reveal both the State and Energy departments ruled out the possibility deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein sought high-strength aluminum tubing for the development of nuclear weapons.

The 81 mm tubes were a key component of President Bush’s charge that Iraq was “reconstituting” its nuclear weapons program.

Energy “assesses that the tubes probably are not part of the program,” states the declassified summary, or “key judgments,” of the still-secret National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE. The 90-page report was prepared last October by the U.S. intelligence community.

State’s intelligence branch, known as the INR, agreed.

“INR accepts the judgment of technical experts at the U.S. Department of Energy who have concluded that the tubes Iraq seeks to acquire are poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges to be used for uranium enrichment,” page 5 of the report says. And it “finds unpersuasive the arguments advanced by others to make the case that they are intended for that purpose.”

Less than a week after the report was circulated, however, Bush nonetheless insisted in a key Iraq speech in Cincinnati that the tubes “are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.”

He repeated the charge against Hussein in his Jan. 28 State of the Union address: “Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear-weapons production.”

The assertion came right after Bush’s now-disputed 16-word allegation that Hussein also had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

In the NIE report, State argued it was “far more likely that the tubes are intended for another purpose, most likely the production of artillery rockets.”

It based its alternative view on the “very large quantities being sought [thousands of tubes], the way the tubes were tested by the Iraqis, and the atypical lack of attention to operational security in the procurement efforts,” among other reasons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reached a similar conclusion in early January, finding the tubes better suited for conventional artillery rockets than centrifuge rotors.

Then, in a March 7 report to the U.N. Security Council, IAEA officially ruled out the possibility the tubes were sought for a nuclear program.

Citing blueprints and invoices seized in Baghdad, the group noted Iraq had for two decades unsuccessfully tried to manufacture 81 mm artillery rockets that could perform better while resisting rust. The failure led Baghdad to look outside the country for higher-grade metals with “anodized” coatings – a thin outer film better suited for rockets than centrifuges.

Nuclear experts also agree the size of the tubes didn’t fit the specifications for use as centrifuge rotors, and Iraq would have had to retool the imports if it intended to use them for refining uranium.

“The tubes are not intended for use in Iraq’s nuclear weapon programs,” State’s INR concluded in the secret high-level report.

In fact, INR rejected the administration’s view that Iraq was vigorously pursuing nuclear weapons, citing “inadequate” evidence.

“The activities we have detected do not add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons,” the report said.

Though such efforts were still possible, INR said it found “the available evidence inadequate to support such a judgment.”

U.S. inspectors scouring Iraq so far have uncovered no hard evidence Baghdad had, in fact, “reconstituted” its nuclear-weapons program, as the White House repeatedly charged before the war. And they have found no banned weapons of any kind – nuclear, biological or chemical.

The White House, under increasing pressure to explain evidence it used to support the war, Friday released select portions of the secret NIE report. It did not post the eight pages of released text (parts of which are redacted) on its website, however. And it only made them available to select media through the National Security Council press office, not the main White House press office.

WorldNetDaily late Friday received from the NSC a copy of the eight-page release from the still-secret report, entitled “Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

The report is not the same as the 25-page unclassified public report – entitled “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs” – the CIA posted on its website in October.

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