WASHINGTON — Charles Duelfer, the head of the CIA's weapons search team in Iraq, said Saturday that a final report he expected to deliver next month would not forecast what Baghdad's unconventional arms programs might have looked like if the United States had not invaded.
Duelfer, speaking by telephone from Baghdad, said that the search team had discussed making such a projection but did not pursue it. Duelfer said the fact that the idea was discussed might have created the impression among officials in Washington that such speculation would be a component of the final report.
"We are looking at the evolution and the decision process of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] programs in Iraq, but it ends in 2003," said Duelfer, who since January has been head of the search team, formally known as the Iraq Survey Group. "There is no intent to speculate beyond the data that we can collect."
The prospect of a speculative report had touched off criticism on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, recently wrote a letter to acting CIA Director John E. McLaughlin, saying an effort to project what Iraq's weapons capabilities could have become would be "inconsistent with the original mission of the Iraq Survey Group" and "by definition, be highly speculative."
Harman's letter said that Army Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton, the former senior military officer with the weapons search group, had indicated during a briefing on Capitol Hill last month that the final report would "focus on what the state of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs would have been in 2006 or 2008 had the United States not gone to war with Iraq in 2003."
Dayton, who left the survey group in June, subsequently provided several briefings for staff members on Capitol Hill, according to a spokesman for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
An article in The Times on Friday, citing the Harman letter as well as other congressional and intelligence sources, reported that the CIA was planning to include such a projection in its report. It also included comment from a U.S. intelligence official who said any effort to forecast Iraqi weapons activity would not be the main focus of the survey group's final report.
Duelfer said Saturday that the survey group had had "informal discussions" about making projections as far into the future as 2010. "That was someone's idea but not mine and not something anyone spent any time on," he said.
Duelfer, a former U.N. weapons inspector, said he expected to complete and submit the final report to the CIA by the end of September. He said he also intended for the report to be made public.
Duelfer said the group was "using a timeline as a tool for analysis" in trying to understand decisions by deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein with regard to Iraq's weapons programs. The report will document the evidence collected to date and attempt to explain the regime's intentions, Duelfer said.
For decades, Iraq's illicit arms activities "have consumed many countries and several wars and thousands of lives," Duelfer said. "It deserves something more than just a simple-minded archeological exam of the WMD program."
Duelfer declined to discuss any findings in detail. Despite prewar assertions by the Bush administration and the CIA, no stockpiles or evidence of active illegal weapons programs has been found in Iraq.