Iraq WMD: Facts, Fiction, and Yellowcake Case Study
by Rebecca Vogel and Randolph H. Pherson
Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, attention quickly focused on the potential terrorist threat posed by the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and specifically the status of its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programs. One of the most critical concerns was whether Iraq was actively seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability. This was a priority collection requirement for intelligence collectors and analysts in the United States and its allies. In late 2001 and early 2002, the United States and the UK received intelligence reports that Iraqi officials had attempted to purchase “yellowcake” uranium from Niger. Yellowcake uranium can be used to make fuel for nuclear reactors; if processed differently, it can be enriched to produce weapons. This case study applies the Deception Detection, Diagnostic Reasoning, Argument Mapping, and Key Assumptions Check structured techniques to explore how better analysis could have been generated to debunk the yellowcake reporting and provide better support to senior policymakers and decision makers.