WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) conceded Friday evidence he presented to the United Nations (search) that two trailers in Iraq were used for weapons of mass destruction may have been wrong.
In an airborne news conference on the way home from NATO (search) talks in Brussels, Belgium, Powell said he had been given solid information about the trailers that he told the Security Council in February 2003 were designed for making biological weapons.
But now, Powell said, "it appears not to be the case that it was that solid."
He said he hoped the intelligence commission appointed by President Bush to investigate prewar intelligence on Iraq "will look into these matters to see whether or not the intelligence agency had a basis for the confidence that they placed in the intelligence at that time."
Powell's dramatic case to the Security Council that Iraq had secret arsenals of weapons of mass destruction failed to persuade the council to directly back the U.S.-led war that deposed the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But it helped mobilize sentiment among the American people for going to war.
As it turned out, U.N. inspectors were unable to uncover the weapons, but administration officials have insisted they still might be uncovered.
David Kay, who led the hunt for the weapons, showed off a pair of trailers for news cameras last summer and argued that the two metal flatbeds were designed for making biological weapons.
But faced with mounting challenges to that theory, Kay conceded in October he could have been wrong. He said he did not know whether Iraq ever had a mobile weapons program.
Powell told reporters that as he worked on the Bush administration's case against Iraq U.S. intelligence "indicated to me" that the intelligence was solid.
"I'm not the intelligence community, but I probed and I made sure, as I said in my presentation, these are multi-sourced" allegations, Powell said.
The trailers were the most dramatic claims, "and I made sure that it was multi-sourced," he said.
"Now, if the sources fell apart we need to find out how we've gotten ourselves in that position," he said.
"I have discussions with the CIA about it," Powell said, without providing further details.
The trailers were the only discovery the administration had cited as evidence of an illicit Iraqi weapons program.
In six months of searches, no biological, chemical or nuclear weapons were found to bolster the administration's central case for going to war: to disarm Saddam of suspected weapons of mass destruction.