Military Exports to Iraq Come Under Scrutiny

The New York Times
June 25, 1991 p. A11

WASHINGTON, June 23 — The Commerce Department has started an internal investigation of charges that officials of the agency altered documents related to the export of militarily useful technology to Iraq so that the material would appear less incriminating when examined by a Congressional committee, Congressional aides say.

The investigation, which is being undertaken by the department’s Inspector General, came to light as a Washington public policy group provided examples of discrepancies between the Commerce Department’s internal export control documents and those it presented to Congress and the public.

The disclosures are likely to fire still more debate over the Bush Administration’s permissive general export policies toward Iraq up until just before President Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait last August. Democrats have pointed to the shift as a sign of a weak, inconsistent and unpredictable foreign policy.

The disclosures related to a report presented to Congress last March 11 listing export licenses the Administration approved for Iraq between 1985 and 1990. The total value of the goods that received approval was $1.5 billion, of which $500 million was shipped.

Discrepancies in Reports

The public policy group, the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, which tracks the spread of nuclear weapons to developing countries, analyzed the list and found discrepancies between internal documents and those presented to the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Consumer and Monetary Affairs.

Government agencies routinely edit documents that are meant for the public. In this case, however, the editing gave an impression that the Commerce Department was not completely forthcoming with Congress.

For example, an internal document obtained by the Wisconsin group showed approval of a sale of $139,535 of equipment for calibrating, adjusting and testing surveillance radar. The equipment was ordered from the Hewlett-Packard Company of Palo Alto, Calif.

The internal document identified the buyer as the “Salah al-Din” Establishment and said “according to our information the end-user is involved in military matters.” But the report that was released to the public and Congress did not identify the American seller or provide a description of the buyer.

According to intelligence officials, Salah al-Din was a state enterprise building military radar for Saad 16, one of Iraq’s centers for missile development

Gary Milhollin, the Wisconsin group’s director, said it was “not surprising that Commerce concealed this knowledge from the public.”

He asserted that the volume of militarily useful exports to Iraq is an indication that the Government’s export control machinery “has broken down.”

State Department Blamed

Mildred Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Export Administration, would not comment on any editing of public documents, except to note that the Export Administration Act bars disclosure to the public of proprietary information, including the name of an applicant for an export license.

Dennis E. Kloske, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration, resigned this year after telling Congress that the Administration had ignored warnings about exporting to Iraq.

But he placed the blame on the State Department, which he said overruled many of the Commerce Department’s objections to specific export licenses in hopes of keeping diplomatic lines open.

Theodore J Jacobs, the chief counsel of the House commerce and consumer subcommittee, said he would withhold comment on any editing of reports until the Department’s Inspector General made his finding. “I think the general view is that Commerce was following policies of the United States Government,” he said.

But the panel’s chairman, Representative Doug Barnard Jr., Democrat of Georgia, has said the panel would issue a report this week on ways to revamp the export control system.