October 11, 2002   #197
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness
From a Public Interest Perspective

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American consumers are deeply concerned about the current farm crisis, and about the changing structure of the food and agricultural industries. Moreover, they believe that their needs are best served by a family farm system of agriculture, and support spending tax dollars to put a firmer economic foundation under the farm economy, according to a just-released national survey.

The national non-profit organization Communicating for Agriculture (CA) [has] released the results of an independent survey it commissioned of consumers to assess their views about the impact of the current farm crisis.

The results suggest that consumers believe that family farmers are best available to provide them with lower food prices, better food safety, and demonstrate more concern for the environment and protecting natural resources.

"The common perception that consumers only think their food comes from the grocery store, and don't care about where, how and who produces their food, is dead wrong," said Wayne Nelson, national president of Communicating for Agriculture. "Consumers are concerned about food cost, food safety, and food production. They are aware and very bothered by growing concentration in the food industry, and a strong majority hold a clear preference for a family farm based system of agriculture."

The survey was conducted by Strategic Research Group, Eden Prairie, Minnesota from August 3-10, 1999. Respondents were randomly selected from lists of American households. Sixty percent of the respondents were female; 40% male. Less than ten percent of respondents lived in rural communities of less than 50,000 people. The margin of error was 4.7 percent.

Seventy eight percent of respondents said they personally have found that grocery prices of have gone up in the last year, despite farm prices that have dropped to 30-year lows for most crops and major commodities.

While groceries have gone up between three to five percent on a national average, 80% of respondents said farmers are the least responsible for the increases. Nearly 25% of respondents felt food processors are most responsible for rising food prices; while 26.5 percent blamed grocery stores; and 47.5 percent pointed to government policies.

When asked their views about growing concentration in agricultural production, 59% said they believe family farmers are more likely to keep food costs down, compared to large agricultural corporations (12.5 percent) or multi-national corporations (17.5 percent).
Only seven percent of respondents believe that the growing concentration of farm production, food processing and distribution under ownership of fewer companies will lead to lower grocery costs. Nearly 72% believe it will lead to greater profits for those companies, however 21% felt both lower consumer costs and greater corporate profits would result.

Nearly 83% of respondents believe family farmers would do a better job of protecting the land and environment, and 78% believe family farmers are more likely to be concerned about food safety compared to large agricultural or multi-national corporations.

The current farm crisis is a major concern. When asked if they were a member of Congress and had to vote to provide $6 billion in a farm relief package, 84% said "spend the money." Nearly 69% also said they would support spending $10 billion in farm relief, which several farm groups and members of Congress have called for. Only 11% said they were against spending federal funds to help farmers.

This support for family farmers was manifested by a willingness, expressed by most of the consumers, to increase the price of their groceries via a one percent tax, if the proceeds would be directed to support family-based agriculture.

"The question for government leaders is: if consumers support family-based agriculture and farmers support it, why are federal regulatory, tax and farm program policies yielding the opposite result, leading to fewer farmers and more concentration of food processing and distribution in the hands of fewer, large, dominant food and agricultural conglomerates?," Nelson asked.

"The consumers of farm products clearly align themselves with the producers of those products. This flies in the face of the myth that urban and suburban Americans are against agricultural support payments," the farm leader said.

Communicating for Agriculture is a national, non-profit, non-partisan rural
organization made up of farmers, ranchers and rural small business members in 50 states.


Keith Dittrich, president of the American Corn Growers Association ACGA) and a corn farmer from Tilden, Nebraska, reveals that the disparities in CEO compensation, when compared to the incomes of ordinary American workers, extends well past the financial, communications and manufacturing sectors.

"It has been reported by several news organizations the that annual compensation of current CEO of ConAgra Foods Inc. exceeded $11 million. That is about equal to the combined average net income from farming operations for farm households that will be realized by over 3,300 American farmers this year.

"We are not opposed to anyone making a decent living, but when the average American farm household can expect less than $10 a day this year for their labor, management and investment, we must ask where are the priorities of this nation?" he adds.

According to reports by the Associated Press, ConAgra's CEO, Bruce Rhode, made four times more in total compensation this year than last. ConAgra's profits reportedly increased by 23% over the same period.

"While at the same time," Dittrich notes, "the U.S. Department of Agriculture has projected a 21% decrease in net farm income this year and the net income for farm households from on-farm sources is projected to be $3,274 --- or about $8.97 per day."

Citing an economic analysis by Dr. Daryll E. Ray, Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee, Dittrich said that, in constant dollars, 2002 would be the third worst year for the farm economy in 68 years. "Only twice since 1934 has net farm income been this bad, and that is just the forecast. I predict the situation could be much worse, especially for farmers and ranchers facing natural disasters for the second year in a row."

"This is why we need Congress to pass, and President Bush to enact, disaster relief for America's farm families prior to the Congressional election recess," Dittrich emphasized

"We urge swift action on HR 5383, the `Emergency Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2002.'  This important legislative initiative would provide for emergency assistance for crop losses incurred due to drought and other natural disasters during both the 2001 and 2002 crop years, including devastating quality losses such as aflatoxin in this year's corn in multiple geographic locations."


The World Health Organization (WHO), which has declared irradiated foods safe for human consumption, has ignored a growing body of evidence clearly indicating otherwise, according to a report released by Public Citizen and Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE). Despite this evidence, the WHO and other international agencies are working to expand the legalization, commercialization and consumer acceptance of irradiated foods, the report found.

The WHO has dismissed 50 years' worth of research documenting a wide range of serious health problems in laboratory animals that ate irradiated foods, including premature death, mutation, prenatal death and other reproductive problems, fatal internal bleeding, suppressed immune systems, organ damage, tumors, stunted growth and nutritional deficiencies, according to the report, "Bad Taste: The Disturbing Truth About the World Health Organization's Endorsement of Food Irradiation."

The WHO also has dismissed recent evidence linking cyclobutanones, chemical byproducts formed in certain irradiated foods, to cancer development and tumors in rats, and genetic damage in human cells, the report states. Cyclobutanones have never been found to occur naturally in any food.

Government officials throughout the world, including the United States, have relied on the WHO's findings to legalize food irradiation. In the United States, beef, poultry, pork, fruits, vegetables, eggs, wheat, spices and sprouting seeds can legally be irradiated.

"The WHO's negligence could put at risk the health of millions of people throughout the world. These risks will only deepen as food supply systems become more globalized," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "It is irresponsible to promote the use of a questionable method while ignoring evidence that points to the dangers associated with it."

"Bad Taste" reveals that, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, the WHO proclaimed in 1999 that "treating" foods with high doses of ionizing radiation "does not result in any toxicological hazard."

"The WHO's job is to protect the health of the world's citizens --- not use them as guinea pigs for experimental food products," said Alice Slater, president of GRACE. "The WHO should immediately get out of the irradiated food business."

The report also found that:

* The WHO has abandoned its original research agenda crafted in 1961, which urged comprehensive research on the basic human health implications of irradiated foods.

* The WHO has ceded to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose mission is preserving the nuclear industry, not the health of people, the ultimate power of researching the safety of irradiated foods. The IAEA is leading a global campaign to further the legalization, commercialization and consumer acceptance of irradiated foods. "We must confer with experts in the various fields of advertising and psychology to put the public at ease," one IAEA report states. The consultants recommended that "identification of the process should not be required on the label."

* The IAEA and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also have misrepresented a vast body of research that revealed health problems in animals that ate irradiated foods and stated instead that no such problems were attributable to irradiation. Further, some compelling research was omitted from key WHO reports.

Public Citizen and GRACE recommend the following:

* The WHO should promptly shift the focus of its peer-reviewed research into the core safety and wholesomeness issues and investigate the presence of various toxic chemicals in irradiated foods.

* The WHO, IAEA and FAO should immediately withdraw their endorsements of irradiation for all foods at any dose and refrain from recommending the further expansion of food irradiation.

* The United Nations should appoint an independent panel of experts from the fields of toxicology, food science, radiation chemistry and nutrition to conduct a comprehensive review of the WHO, IAEA and FAO activities related to food irradiation.


CANADIAN BROADCASTING COMPANY (CBC) NEWS ONLINE: The American food industry got the green light to avoid using the word "irradiation" on labels. Intead, the Food and Drug Administration says words such as "cold pasteurization" are all right.

Irradiation exposes food to low doses of electrons or gamma rays to destroy bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella, in food. It has been approved for use on raw chicken and beef, spices and dried seasonings.

Food producers have long complained that the public will be scared off by the word "irradiated." They add consumers will be confused by the current rules which require irradiated foods to be labelled "treated with irradiation" or "treated by radiation."

In addition, the product must bear the symbol, called a radura, which looks like green petals in a broken circle. Food companies say consumers will think it's a warning. Critics say using different language is a way to hide what actually happens to the food.

Some environmental and consumer groups are against the process. They fear irradiating food products will have health effects. Studies suggest the process may deplete vitamins, A, E and K and can deposit carcinogens in their place.

When a piece of meat is zapped with ten kilorays or radiation beams, the surge of energy is equal in power to 150 million chest X-rays. Proponents say the process is a powerful tool that will reduce disease in food. They say there are no effects on the taste, quality or safety of the food.

More than 40 countries such as France, Israel and Russia have given approval for over 60 food products to be irradiated. Health Canada is poised to approve irradiation of red meat and poultry.

Some foods are already approved for irradiation in Canada: spices, flour and onions and potatoes to prevent sprouting. There doesn't appear to be a move to change the labelling guidelines in Canada. Products will have the words "treated by irradiation" stamped on them.


LEILA ABBOUD. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Five years after the federal  government created a new program to ensure that Americans don't eat bad fish, fewer than 60% of seafood companies are following the safety standards.

An evaluation of the government's seafood  inspection program for 2000 and 2001, released by the Food and Drug Administration, concluded that fish processors are making "steady progress." But food-safety advocates who reviewed the report say the system leaves consumers exposed to dangerous pathogens from contaminated fish.

"Consumers remain at high risk when eating raw shellfish, fresh tuna, mahi-mahi, and smoked seafood," says Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington.

Although Americans eat seafood less often than meat, tainted fish and shellfish have caused 539 major food-poisoning outbreaks since 1990, more than any other type of food. (That includes only cases where the source of poisoning can be identified.)

Shockingly, no doubt, to many lovers of lox and bagels, the worst record came from producers of smoked fish. They were the ones most often disciplined for violations of the safety standards. That is a particularly disturbing finding because two types of bacteria that can grow in smoked fish pose grave health risks. Listeria monoytogenes and Clostridium botulinum cause severe food poisoning, and can lead to death. A current listeria outbreak traced to tainted turkey deli meat has caused 20 deaths and 120 illnesses in eight northeastern states.

Industry groups said the data show fish present more health hazards than others. "Seafood is a safe and wholesome product," said Linda Candler, a spokeswoman for the industry group, the National Fisheries Institute.

The evaluation comes at a time when the biggest risk consumption is rising among health-conscious Americans. The average person in the U.S. eats about 15 pounds of fish a year, an increase of 15% from the past two decades, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That is still far less than the average of 64 pounds of beef each American consumes annually. But in recent years, the fish industry has been touting seafood as the healthy alternative to red meat: "Tired of hearing about foods you shouldn't eat?" asks the Web site of the National Fisheries Institute, an industry group.

The data on fish standards were collected as part of the FDA's second evaluation of the seafood inspection program that it started in 1997. The approach requires food processors to identify potential food-safety problems and keep them from occurring. Seafood plants must have a written plan that includes detailed steps the plant will take to prevent the growth of pathogens that can sicken consumers.

But congressional investigators and consumer groups have long criticized the inspection program, saying it doesn't adequately control ]hazards and doesn't include on-site testing for pathogens. It also exempts about 30% of the industry, including warehouses and fishing vessels.

The FDA sticks by its program, and says the latest evaluation shows that more companies are complying. The safety program "is as good as it gets," said Graciela Iguina, spokeswoman for FDA. "It tries to build safety into the whole manufacturing process to prevent seafood from hurting people."

Still, the FDA singled out particular sectors of the fish-processing industry for concern. In addition to smoked fish, it said producers of scombroid species, which include tuna, mahi-mahi and swordfish --- all fixtures on upscale restaurant menus --- aren't doing enough to protect consumers from food-borne illness. When these kinds of fish aren't stored at the right temperature, histamines form that are toxic when ingested and cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Shrimp and lobster, other popular seafoods, are generally safer, though it is important to avoid the green material, called the tamale, inside the lobster, food-safety experts say.

Since 1997, both the USDA and FDA have implemented a regulatory approach --- known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP -- for ensuring the safety of meat, poultry, and seafood. But while the vast majority of the nation's 6,200 meat and poultry plants have HACCP plans in place, the seafood industry lags far behind, said Ms. Smith DeWaal, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. And while FDA inspectors visit seafood plants about once or twice a year, USDA inspectors are in meat plants daily.

Of the 4,100 fish and shellfish processors inspected in 2001, only 41% implemented safety plans that passed FDA muster. An additional 16% had an adequate safety plan but hadn't yet implemented it. Twelve percent had no safety plan at all. The remaining 31% were exempted from the safety rules.

This is an improvement from the last time the agency evaluated the seafood program. That was in 1999, when only 24% of companies had a plan --- and had put it place. But little progress was made on prodding the hard-core noncompliers, according to the FDA. The agency sends warning letters to firms that aren't in compliance, but doesn't have the legal authority to shut plants.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has filed a petition with the FDA to include a mandatory pathogen-testing program for seafood. Such testing, which is required for meat and poultry, could be used as baseline data to objectively measure whether the fish-safety program is working. The seafood industry has long opposed such testing, arguing that it would be costly and ineffective.


MICHELLE COLE, PORTLAND OREGONIAN: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration objects to Oregon's ballot Measure 27, which would require labeling to identify genetically modified foods sold in Oregon.

In an October 4 letter to Gov. John Kitzhaber, FDA Deputy Commissioner Lester M. Crawford argued that labeling of genetically modified foods is not only unnecessary, but contrary to FDA guidelines.

"FDA's scientific evaluation of bioengineered foods continues to show that these foods, as currently marketed in the United States, are as safe as their conventional counterparts," Crawford wrote.

"Moreover," he said, "mandatory labeling to disclose that a product was produced through genetic engineering does not promote the public health in that it fails to provide material facts concerning the safety or nutritional aspects of food and may be misleading to consumers."

If Measure 27 passes, Oregon would become the first state to mandate labeling on genetically modified foods.

As much as 70% of the processed foods consumed in the United States contain some genetically altered ingredient. The FDA does not require special labeling of those foods, though genetically modified foods must meet the same safety standards as their conventionally bred counterparts, the agency says.

Reached late Monday, Crawford said it is not particularly unusual for the FDA to weigh in on a state ballot issue. He was unsure whether the FDA would take any further action beyond the unsolicited letter to Kitzhaber.

A governor's spokesman said Monday that Kitzhaber has not yet taken a position on Measure 27.

Environmental, health and consumer groups have raised objections in recent years about the unknown effects of changing or altering the cell structure of plants and animals to reduce the need for pesticides or otherwise improve the quality of foods.

Donna Harris, of Oregon Concerned Citizens for Safe Foods, said she wasn't surprised the FDA has gone on record against Measure 27.

"This isn't a new thing for them," said Harris, who is managing the Yes on 27 campaign. "For years, consumers have been writing letters to the FDA to let them know that they have wanted labeling."

Oregon's Measure 27 has drawn stiff opposition from the agriculture, food processing and biotechnology industries. As of September 30, the Coalition Against the Costly Labeling Law had raised $4.6 million to fund its campaign to defeat Measure 27.

Pat McCormick, coalition spokesman, said the FDA's opposition should help educate voters. "I think it's a substantial indication of the problems with this measure," he said.


October 4, 2002,

Dear Governor Kitzhaber:

This letter explains why FDA objects to the pending ballot initiative to require the mandatory labeling of foods and food additives produced using genetic engineering sold in Oregon, or produced in Oregon and shipped to  other states.

In brief, FDA's scientific judgement is that there is no significant difference between foods produced using bioengineering, as a class, and their conventional counterparts. (By "genetic engineering," we refer to foods produced using recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) technology and not traditional breeding techniques; this technology is also referred to as "bioengineering" or "biotechnology.")

Further, FDA's scientific evaluation of bioengineered foods continues to show that these foods, as currently marketed in the United States, are as safe as their conventional counterparts. Moreover, mandatory labeling to disclose that a product was produced through genetic engineering does not promote the public health in that it fails to provide material facts concerning the safety or nutritional aspects of food and may be misleading to consumers.

Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act ("the FD&C Act"), FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of the nation's food supply, ensuring that food labeling is truthful and not misleading, and for regulating food additives. 21 U.S.C. S 321, et. seq. Foods and food ingredients produced using bioengineering must adhere to the same safety and labeling standards under the FD&C Act as their conventionally bred counterparts. FDA is not aware of any information or data that would suggest that any genetically engineered foods that have been allowed for human use are not as safe as conventional foods.

After numerous meetings and public comments on this issue, FDA concluded that a safety assessment of any new food should focus on the traits and characteristics of that food, no matter which techniques (traditional breeding or genetic engineering) were used to develop the food.

Food produced via bioengineering should be treated just like its conventional counterparts because, from a scientific standpoint, there is no evidence that these foods differ as a class from traditionally bred foods in any meaningful or uniform way. Nor is there evidence that, as a class, foods developed by rDNA breeding techniques present any different or greater safety concerns than foods developed via traditional breeding. FDA's scientific evaluation to date has shown that the substances added to food via bioengineering have been well-characterized proteins that are functionally very similar to other proteins that are commonly and safely consumed in the diet every day.

FDA has previously concluded that requiring mandatory labeling for bioengineered foods is not scientifically or legally warranted. Rather, the labeling for foods produced using bioengineering must comply with the law applying to the labeling for all foods. Among other things, food labeling must reveal all facts that are material in light of representation made in the labeling or in light of consequences that may result from the use of foods. 21 U.S.C. S 321(n).

For example, FDA would consider mandatory labeling where:

* the food is significantly different from its traditional counterpart, such that the common or usual name no longer adequately describes the new food --- FDA has required labeling for two foods (a soy oil and a canola oil) where the fatty acid composition was changed to mimic that of food oils not associated with the modified plant;
* an issue exists for the food or a constituent of the food regarding how the food is used or consequences of its use;
* the food has significantly different nutritional properties; or
* a new food includes an allergen that consumers would not expect to be present in the food based on the food's name.

Accordingly, the proposed legislation for mandatory labeling of foods produced using bioengineering would be contrary to FDA's position that the use of bioengineering, standing alone, is not a material fact that requires disclosure in food labeling. Moreover, as is summarized above, and described in more detail in FDA's public notices cited above, mandatory labeling of bioengineered foods is contrary to the science that currently shows no significant difference between foods produced using bioengineering and their conventional counterparts.

Moreover, the proposed legislation would impermissibly interfere with manufacturers' ability to market their products on a nationwide basis. If passed, manufacturers producing products in Oregon or manufacturers selling products in Oregon produced in another state would be required to create special labeling to comply with Oregon law --- labeling not required by FDA or other states. Thus, as a practical matter, the Oregon law would require different labels for different states impeding the free flow of commerce between the states.

We hope you find these views useful.

Lester M. Crawford, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Deputy Commissioner

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Lester Crawford, is the former director of Georgetown University's Center for Food and Nutrition Policy


ALAN GUEBERT, THE FINAL WORD: When is comes to politics, money talks and candidates walk. Given 2002's tight Congressional races ---particularly in key farm states --- and with the slim majorities of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives at stake, a lot of money from a lot of big agribusinesses is doing a lot of talking.

According to campaign finance reports through September 8, (compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics),
most of ag's money is flowing to Republicans and most to GOP incumbents in "safe"--- not threatened --- races.

For example, 13 meat processors and lobbies contributed $353,922 to Congressional candidates so far in the 2002 election cycle. Of the total, $299,319, or 84%, was sent Republicans. The biggest meat lobby gave the biggest steak: The American Meat Institute contributed $163,482 to Congressional candidates through September 8; 89% to Republicans.

Little wonder the Republican-led House Ag Committee killed the twice-passed Senate plan to limit livestock ownership by packers in the 2002 Farm Bill.

Other notable packers lathering the GOP are Hormel, $44,800 with $44,352 flowing to the GOP, and Smithfield Foods, $41,750 with $37,575 going to the GOP.

Meat growers and livestock groups were just as generous to Republicans. Through September 8 the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the number one ranked meat contributor, gave 83%of its $381,702 to Republican candidates. Iowa pork concentrator

Heartland Pork put 100% percent of its $20,000 into Republican pockets. (Down-on-its-luck National Pork Producers Association hedged its bets; it has donated $68,930 so far in the 2002 cycle, 48% to Democrats and 52% to Republicans.)

The biggest agribusiness political gift horse through September 8 is the former, current and still-reigning champion gift horse Archer Daniels Midland. ADM sent $752,810 to Senate and House candidates. Sixty-eight percent of the money went to Republicans. Even more interesting is how and from whom ADM got its money to dole out.

For instance, Elizabeth Dole, the Republican Senate candidate from North Carolina and wife of former Kansas senator, ADM friend and presidential candidate Bob Dole, has received eight individual contributions of $1,000 each from people with the last name of Andreas, the long-time rulers at ADM.

According to compiled data Inez Andreas, listed as "Homemaker, Miami, FL" gave Mrs. Dole $1,000. Inez may be a homemaker but she also is married to ADM's former CEO, chairman and kingmaker Dwayne O. Andreas. Dwayne also gave Dole $1,000, as did current ADM CEO G. Allen Andreas. G.'s brother, Martin, a senior ADM manager, sent a thousand as did Michael, Dwayne's son, who served a federal prison term for price fixing in ag markets. Martin and Michael's wives also put $1,000 each into Dole's campaign.

Even corporate players in ag sectors that aren't making money seem to have spare cash to contribute to 2002 candidates. For example, while dairy farmers are wading in red ink, dairy interests are coating candidates in cream.

Dairy Farmers of America, the nation's largest milk cooperative, has donated $447,500 to congressional candidates this cycle with 56% going to the GOP. The International Dairy Foods Association, which backs free trade to boost dairy imports, has buttered politicians with $335,149 so far this year; 86% to GOP candidates.

The list is endless but the lesson is clear: Despite the worst farm income year since 1983 --- and 2002 follows four already-poor years- -- a tidal wave of political money is flowing to candidates who prefer to remain on today's overproduction, farmer-crushing course.


WARREN P. STROBEL & JONATHAN S. LANDAY, KNIGHT-RIDDER TRIBUNE NEWS: While President Bush marshals congressional and international support for invading Iraq, a growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in his own government privately have deep misgivings about the administration's double-time march toward war.

These officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses --- including distorting his links to the al-Qaida terrorist network --- have overstated the amount of international support for attacking Iraq and have downplayed the potential repercussions of a new war in the Middle East.

They charge that the administration squelches dissenting views and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House's argument that Saddam poses such an immediate threat to the United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary.

"Analysts at the working level in the intelligence community are feeling very strong pressure from the Pentagon to cook the intelligence books," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. A dozen other officials echoed his views in interviews. No one who was interviewed disagreed.

They cited recent suggestions by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that Saddam and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network are working together.

Rumsfeld said on September 26 that the U.S. government has "bulletproof" confirmation of links between Iraq and al-Qaida members, including "solid evidence" that members of the terrorist network maintain a presence in Iraq.

The facts are much less conclusive. Officials said Rumsfeld's statement was based in part on intercepted telephone calls, in which an al-Qaida member who apparently was passing through Baghdad was overheard calling friends or relatives, intelligence officials said. The intercepts provide no evidence that the suspected terrorist was working with the Iraqi regime or that he was working on a terrorist operation while he was in Iraq, they said.

Rumsfeld also suggested that the Iraqi regime has offered safe haven to bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

While technically true, that also is misleading. Intelligence reports said the Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, a longtime Iraqi intelligence officer, made the offer during a visit to Afghanistan in late 1998, after the United States attacked al-Qaida training camps with cruise missiles to retaliate for the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. But officials said the same intelligence reports said bin Laden rejected the offer because he didn't want Saddam to control his group.

In fact, the officials said, there's no ironclad evidence that the Iraqi regime and the terrorist network are working together or that Saddam has ever contemplated giving chemical or biological weapons to al-Qaida, with whom he has deep ideological differences.

None of the dissenting officials, who work in a number of different agencies, would agree to speak publicly, out of fear of retribution. But many of them have long experience in the Middle East and South Asia, and all spoke in similar terms about their unease with the way U.S. political leaders are dealing with Iraq.

All agreed that Saddam is a threat who eventually must be dealt with, and none flatly opposes military action. But, they say, the U.S. government has no dramatic new knowledge about the Iraqi leader that justifies Bush's urgent call to arms.

"I've seen nothing that's compelling," said one military officer who has access to intelligence reports.

Some lawmakers have voiced similar concerns after receiving CIA briefings.


JACK BALKIN, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, YALE UNIVERSITY: The president is right about one thing. . . . Today the world faces a single man armed with weapons of mass destruction, manifesting an aggressive, bullying attitude who may well plunge the world into chaos and bloodshed if he miscalculates. This person, belligerent, arrogant, and sure of himself, truly is the most dangerous person on Earth. The problem is that his name is George W. Bush, and he is our president.



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