In a federal lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency, a former officer alleges that the agency ignored information in 2001 from a "significant" informant who told the CIA that Iraq had abandoned a major element of its nuclear weapons program.
In the lawsuit, the anonymous CIA officer says that the informant told him that Iraq's uranium enrichment program had ended years earlier and that centrifuge components from the scuttled program were available for examination and even purchase.
The officer, an employee at the agency for more than 20 years, including several years in a clandestine unit assigned to gather intelligence related to illicit weapons, was fired in 2004.
(Ironically, Roy W. Krieger, the former officer's lawyer, told the New York Times for an August 1 story that his client worked in the same unit as Valerie Plame, the CIA operative whose role was leaked to the press after her husband publicly challenged some administration conclusions about Iraq's nuclear ambitions.)
In his lawsuit, the former officer says his dismissal was punishment for his reports questioning the agency's assumptions on weapons-related matters, and that he was targeted for refusing to agree with the agency's intelligence conclusions.
The Times noted that details of the eight-month-old case "have not been made public because the documents in his suit have been heavily censored by the government and the substance of the claims are classified. The officer's name remains secret, in part because disclosing it might jeopardize the agency's sources or operations."
Several people with detailed knowledge of the case provided information anonymously to the Times about the allegations, the paper wrote.
Krieger told the Times that he had asked the court handling the case to declassify his client's suit, but the CIA had moved to classify most of his motion seeking declassification. He added that he recently sent a letter to the director of the FBI requesting an investigation of his client's complaints, but that the CIA had classified that letter, as well.
Most of the details of the case, he told the Times, "were classified by the C.I.A., not to protect national security but to conceal politically embarrassing facts from public scrutiny."
The former officer's information on the Iraqi nuclear program arrived at a time when the CIA was starting to reconsider whether Iraq had revived its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
Throughout much of the 1990s, the CIA and other United States intelligence agencies believed that Iraq had largely abandoned its nuclear weapons program. In December 2000, the intelligence agencies issued a classified assessment stating that Iraq did not appear to have taken significant steps toward the reconstitution of the program, according to the presidential commission report concerning illicit weapons.