Interesting article by Eli Lake in Thursday's New York Sun (Hat tip to Lorie Byrd of Polipundit). Mr. Lake has a piece in on Special Agent (SA) David Gaubatz, who served with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) in Iraq, shortly after the fall of Saddam in 2003.
As an investigator, SA Gaubatz worked out of Talil Airbase, gathering information on the whereabouts of former regime members and WMD in the Nasiriyah area. Over the course of several months, Gaubatz claims that Iraqi informants led him four underground bunkers--three in Nasiriyah, one near the port of Umm Qasr. In each case, sources told him the underground facilities contained chemical or biological weapons, or missiles whose range exceeded those permitted under UN sanctions. Gaubatz reports that the tunnels to each of the facilities had been flooded, making it impossible to access them.
However, the Air Force investigator forwarded lengthy reports on each complex to the then-forming Iraqi Survey Group (ISG) , complete with accurate grid coordinates, photographs and information from multiple sources. But, according to Gaubatz, the ISG never bothered to follow up on three of the facilities. In once case where they did visit a suspected facility, they lacked the equipment needed to penetrate the bunker's thick concrete walls.
The two men who led the ISG (David Kay and Charles Duelfer) either refused comment, or failed to respond to Lake's request for an interview. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee remains unconvinced that Saddam destroyed his entire WMD arsenal before the U.S. led invasion almost three years ago. The committee, as Eli Lake notes, recently reopened the question of what happened to Saddam's WMDs. It sounds like part of that inquiry should focus on how the ISG did--or failed to do--it's job.
One observation: most OSI agents specialize in criminal investigations, while others focus on counter-intelligence operations. Judging from the brief description of Gaubatz's resume, it sounds like he was a counter-intelligence specialist, skilled in gathering information from field sources, and fusing it together in finished reports. It would be interesting to note if any of Gaubatz's fellow agents (OSI teams typically operate as part of small detachments, both at home and in the field) had similar experiences in southern Iraq, and if their reports were ignored. Corroborating information from other investigators in the region would certainly add some credence to Gaubatz's claims. Here's hoping that Congressman Pete Hoekstra brings Gaubatz and his fellow agents before his intelligence committee, and subpoenas copies of those OSI field reports from 2003.