Levin, Kennedy Ask Rumsfeld About Missing Explosives in Iraq

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

WASHINGTON - Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., today wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld regarding the 342 tons of explosives that have been reported missing from the Al-Qaqaa facility in Iraq.

The Senators’ letter follows:

October 27, 2004

The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
The Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301

Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:

We are writing to inquire what specific policy guidance was
provided to military commanders in Iraq before, during, and after the U.S.
invasion to guarantee that known stockpiles of explosives and ammunition at
the Al-Qaqaa facility and elsewhere in Iraq would be secured or destroyed.
We are also seeking information as to how that policy has been implemented.
Securing these materials should have been one of our highest priorities from
the outset of the war.

The disclosure that about 342 tons of high explosives have disappeared from
the Al-Qaqaa facility is deeply and profoundly troubling, especially because
the facility was so well known to the United States and the international
community before the war. The materials at this site had been secured
since 1991, when the International Atomic Energy Agency sealed the storage
bunkers holding the HMX high explosives as part of the U.N. sanctions regime
that required the dismantlement of Iraq¹s nuclear program after the Gulf
War. The IAEA reportedly visited the site for the last time in March 2003,
before pulling out of the country, just before U.S. forces began the war.

The IAEA was notified on October 10 by Iraqi authorities of the loss ³after
April 9, 2003, through the theft and looting of the governmental
installations due to lack of security², of high explosives at the Al-Qaqaa
facility. David Kay, the former head of the Iraq Survey Group, said he saw
the facility in May of 2003 ³and it was heavily looted at that time.
Sometime between April and May, most of the stuff was carried off. The site
was in total disarray, just like a lot of the Iraqi sites.² In light of the
fact that this facility and the presence of the powerful explosives were
well known to the United States and the international community, it is
unfathomable that the highest priority was not given to securing it, in
order to prevent its loss to anti-American insurgents and terrorists.

Unfortunately, the looting of lethal material is not isolated to the
Al-Qaqaa facility. Last year, David Kay informed the Congress that
approximately 130 known Iraqi Ammunition Storage Points existed in Iraq,
some of which exceeded 50 square miles in size and held an estimated 600,000
tons of artillery shells, rockets, aviation bombs and other ammunition.
Additional previously unknown ammunition and weapons sites continue to be
discovered.

At an October 6 hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee, General
McMenamin, Commander of the Iraq Survey Group, was asked if he could provide
assurances that all these sites are tightly secured by U.S. forces so that
no weapons could fall into the hands of insurgents. General McMenamin told
the Committee, ³I cannot assure you.² He said, ³On the larger ones, we
have security forces, overhead imagery. There's an active program ongoing
to destroy excess munitions around the country. On a regular basis, we're
destroying excess captured munitions to keep them out of the hands of the
insurgency. As the Iraqi forces come online in their security efforts,
they'll be able to take over and protect those assets to prevent them from
falling into the wrong hands.²

It is essential for Congress and the country to know how high a
priority this security was given, what precise policy guidance was provided
by the Department of Defense, and implemented by commanders in the field to
secure all of these sites before, during, and after the invasion.

We have tried to obtain information about the scope of this problem
in the past, but we have never received a comprehensive response. We look
forward to hearing from you now about this important issue.


Sincerely,

Edward M. Kennedy
Carl Levin