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US spies missed signs of attack

Published: 9/5/13 @ 12:00


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

U.S. intelligence agencies did not detect the Syrian regime readying a massive chemical-weapons attack in the days ahead of the strike, only piecing together what had happened after the fact, U.S. officials say.

One of the key pieces of intelligence that Secretary of State John Kerry later used to link the attack to the Syrian government — intercepts of communications telling Syrian military units to prepare for the strikes — was in the hands of U.S. intelligence agencies but had not yet been “processed,” according to senior U.S. officials.

That explains why the White House did not warn either the regime or the rebels who might be targeted as it had done when detecting previous preparations for chemical strikes.

“We know that for three days before the attack, the Syrian regime’s chemical- weapons personnel were on the ground in the area making preparations,” Kerry said last week. “We know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons.”