The CIA abruptly removed from its Web site photos that showed key
uranium-enriching equipment found hidden in Iraq because they revealed
secrets that countries seeking to develop nuclear weapons might find
helpful, analysts said yesterday.
The CIA on Thursday had posted on its Web site a statement and six
photos of centrifuge parts that had been hidden for 12 years under a
rosebush in the garden of an Iraqi scientist, Mahdi Shukur Ubaydi.
The spy agency touted the discovery of the parts as an illustration of
the difficulty of uncovering evidence of Iraq's alleged programs to
develop weapons of mass destruction, the rationale cited by President Bush
in going to war.
No biological or chemical weapons have been found, nor any evidence
that Baghdad had restarted a nuclear weapons program, leading to charges
that Bush and ally Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain exaggerated the
threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The CIA statement about Shukur Ubaydi, who was head of Iraq's pre-1991
uranium enrichment program and turned over the centrifuge documents and
components, remained on its Web site. But the photos had vanished
"We just took them down. They were up there for a few days and didn't
need to be up any more," CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said, refusing to
The photos, which can still be found on other Web sites, showed the
centrifuge parts and engineering drawings of a centrifuge, which is used
to enrich uranium. Some of the photos showed dimensions, which would be
very sensitive material, analysts said.
"These documents would be incredibly useful to countries like Iran,
North Korea, India, Pakistan," said David Albright, president of the
Institute for Science and International Security and a former weapons