This article was first published on Consortium News.
World attention has moved to the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, but the evidence on the Aug. 21 attack near Damascus remains hidden and in dispute, causing a group of former U.S. intelligence professionals to ask Moscow and Washington to present what they have.
Memorandum to: Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
From: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
We applaud your moves toward a peaceful resolution of the Syria crisis that will lead to the destruction of all chemical stockpiles possessed by the Syrian Government.
At the same time, we strongly believe the world has the right to know the truth about the chemical attack near Damascus. We note that both sides continue to claim possession of compelling evidence regarding the true perpetrators of this crime.
We therefore call upon Russia and the United States to release all the intelligence and corroborative information related to the 21 August chemical attack so that the international community can make a judgment regarding what is actually known and not known.
We the undersigned — former intelligence, military and federal law enforcement officers who have collectively dedicated, cumulatively, hundreds of years to making the American people more secure — hereby register our dismay at the continued withholding of this vital evidence.
The issue is one of great importance, as the United States has within recent memory gone to war based on allegations of a threat that proved to be groundless. The indictment of Syria on possibly unsubstantiated claims of war crimes could easily lead to another unnecessary armed conflict that would produce disastrous results for the entire region, and indeed the entire world.
We recognize that when it comes to intelligence, there are many gray areas, as well as evidence that can be subject to interpretation. We further believe, based on our own experience and knowledge of how intelligence collection and analysis actually works, that if there is a clear case to be made – either way – to identify the perpetrators of the attack it has not yet been publicly revealed.
If there is not a credible case, neither the United States nor Russia should be claiming that they know who carried out the attack. We note, for example, the specific claim made by you, Secretary Kerry, that 1,429 civilians had died in the chemical attack. Yet the politically impartial non-governmental organization Medecins Sans Frontieres, which was on the ground in Syria, provided a much smaller figure.
Foreign Minister Lavrov, you have questioned the sources of the chemicals and possible delivery systems, describing the alleged Sarin agent as “homemade.” You have suggested that the chemicals used in the attack were likely in the hands of the insurgents but have cited little hard evidence, and an intelligence assessment you provided to Secretary Kerry has not been made public.
We recognize that protection of intelligence sources and methods requires that some information will be off limits or must be sanitized, but if there is a genuine case to be made, we believe you owe it to the world to make that case now.
If Washington actually has evidence to demonstrate indisputably that August 21st was carried out by the government in Damascus, let us see it. If Moscow can demonstrate otherwise, let us see it.
Respectfully submitted for the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity:
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Larry Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
W. Patrick Lang, Senior Executive and Defense Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.)
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy NIO for the Near East, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Todd Pierce, US Army Judge Advocate General (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, former Chief Division Counsel & FBI Special Agent (ret.)
Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret); Foreign Service Officer (ret.)