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New WMD Survey Group to Begin Operation in Iraq

New WMD Survey Group to Begin Operation in Iraq Soon

(U.S. defense official says group's work will be "very thorough")

By David Anthony Denny Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- A senior Defense Intelligence Agency official who will head a new U.S. operation to seek out weapons of mass destruction in Iraq says the effort represents "a significant expansion" of the ongoing work in that area.

Major General Keith Dayton, operations director at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), briefed media at the Pentagon May 30 on his new task as head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG). He said that the new organization will begin transitioning with the existing group, the 75th Exploitation Task Force, on June 7 in Iraq.

Not only will the ISG be able to apply more people to the task of finding weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Dayton said, it also will consolidate various intelligence-gathering operations currently under way in Iraq under one national-level headquarters.

"Moreover, the ISG will have a powerful intelligence analytical element forward-deployed in the region, with virtual connectivity to an interagency intelligence community ‘fusion center' here in the [Washington] D.C. area," he said. The goal, Dayton said, is to "put all the pieces together in what is appearing to be a very complex jigsaw puzzle."

The ISG will have more to do than searching for and eliminating WMD, Dayton said. It will collect documents and other media related to terrorism and exploit their contents; it will do the same for information on war crimes, POW and MIA issues, and other things related to Saddam Hussein's regime, he said.

"It will interrogate and debrief individuals, both hostile and friendly, and it will exploit captured materiel," Dayton said.

The ISG will have between 1,300 and 1,400 personnel, Dayton said, drawn from several U.S. government agencies, and from the governments of Britain and Australia. Some former UNSCOM (U.N. Special Commission -- the U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq until 1998) inspectors will be on the team, he said. Headquarters will be located in Baghdad, with some operations located in Qatar because of the military's existing communications capability there. The overall operation, he said, will include:

-- A joint interrogation/debriefing center; -- A joint materiel exploitation center; -- Chemical and biological intelligence support teams; and -- The ISG operation center.

"The ISG represents a major change in the search for WMD in Iraq," Dayton said. "It builds on the work already done ... but with its robust analytical capability [deployed] forward, and consolidation of the various intelligence disciplines operating now under one national-level headquarters [deployed] forward in Iraq, the ISG is well-positioned to achieve some real synergy here as we continue the hunt for weapons of mass destruction and delve into other areas of national interest."

Dayton pointed out that the current WMD searchers, the 75th Exploitation Task Force, have been operating off of a list of 900 sites that was drawn up in January and February. The ISG will have a decreased emphasis on the sites on the list, relying more on the intelligence information that its own component develops, he said.

Asked what his expectations were, Dayton answered, "My personal opinion ... going into this is that there is a lot of information out there that simply hasn't been gathered yet, partly because the Iraqis are reluctant to come forward in some areas, partly because we are still in the process of putting together the necessary pieces and the necessary targeting of individuals so that we can find out....

"[T]his is going to be a deliberate process [and] a long-term process as well. This is not necessarily going to be quick and easy, but it will be very thorough," Dayton said.

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