Well, at least briefly.
Is Mohammed El-Baradei a complete idiot? Or just blind?
Investigators Tuesday discovered that Al-Tuwaitha hides another city. This underground nexus of labs, warehouses, and bomb-proof offices was hidden from the public and, perhaps, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors who combed the site just two months ago, until the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Engineers discovered it three days ago.
Today, the Marines hold it against enemy counter-attacks.
So far, Marine nuclear and intelligence experts have discovered 14 buildings that betray high levels of radiation. Some of the readings show nuclear residue too deadly for human occupation.
A few hundred meters outside the complex, where peasants say the "missile water" is stored in mammoth caverns, the Marine radiation detectors go "off the charts."
"It's amazing," said Chief Warrant Officer Darrin Flick, the battalion's nuclear, biological and chemical warfare specialist. "I went to the off-site storage buildings, and the rad detector went off the charts. Then I opened the steel door, and there were all these drums, many, many drums, of highly radioactive material."
To nuclear experts in the United States, the discovery of a subterranean complex is highly interesting, perhaps the atomic "smoking gun" intelligence agencies have been searching for as Operation Iraqi Freedom unfolds.
Last fall, they say, the Central Intelligence Agency prodded international inspectors to probe Al-Tuwaitha for weapons of mass destruction. The inspectors came away with nothing.
"They went through that site multiple times, but did they go underground? I never heard anything about that," said physicist David Albright, a former IAEA Action Team inspector in Iraq from 1992 to 1997. Officials at the IAEA could not be reached for comment.
Applying what's been known as the 48 Hour Rule is sensible here: Wait 48 hours to see if there have been any WMD confirmations. So far, none of them have panned out after two days. This seems to be a slightly different breed of cat, though.
Moreover, this sure does raise some interesting questions. Such as, just precisely what high-tech detection devices were UN inspectors using?
[Link via Christopher Johnson]