A senior defense official says consideration
is being given to pulling intelligence assets off the hunt in Iraq for weapons
of mass destruction and assigning them to counter-terrorism efforts.
Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita insists the hunt for Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction remains a priority and he says the mission of the WMD-hunting,
1,400 member strong Iraq Survey Group will not be changed.
But in an exchange with reporters at the Defense Department, Mr. DiRita acknowledges
there has been high-level talk of possibly taking intelligence assets from
the group and applying them to counter-terrorism efforts in Iraq.
He says this could involve translators, interrogators or others. But he stresses
any assets diverted from the hunt for chemical or biological weapons in Iraq
will only be on an as-needed basis and only if it does not interfere with the
That hunt has so far been unsuccessful in turning up evidence of actual weapons
of mass destruction, while, at the same time, terrorist attacks in Iraq have
The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq has been pressing for more resources
to deal with the increasingly sophisticated attacks, including suicide car
bombs and rockets.
Mr. DiRita says more resources have been shifted to the counter-terrorism
task in recent weeks, both from military units already in Iraq and from others
He says the development of high-tech surveillance equipment that could aid
in the hunt for terrorists is also being accelerated in an effort to speed
it to Iraq.
In addition, Pentagon officials says more Iraqis are helping coalition forces
by providing intelligence on terrorist activities.