The U.S. military has found more Iraqi weapons in recent months, in addition to the 500 chemical munitions recently reported by the Pentagon, a top defense intelligence official said Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, did not specify if the newly found weapons were also chemical munitions. But he said he expected more.
"I do not believe we have found all the weapons," he told the House Armed Services Committee, offering few details in an open session that preceded a classified briefing to lawmakers.
Responding to questions from lawmakers anxious to make political points ahead of the November congressional elections, U.S. defense officials said the 500 chemical weapons discovered in Iraq were "weapons of mass destruction." However their degraded state may make them more dangerous to those who find them than anyone else.
Maples said the pre-Gulf War rockets and artillery rounds recently reported by the Pentagon were produced in the 1980s and could not be used as intended.
If the chemical agent, sarin, was removed from the munitions and repackaged, it could be lethal. Its release in a U.S. city, in certain circumstances, would be devastating, Maples said.
But despite statements of concern by Republicans about the risk of terrorists releasing the chemical in the United States, defense officials said the munitions pose as much a threat to people who try to handle them as potential victims.
When asked by a Democrat to confirm the weapons pose a risk to troops in Iraq, not Americans at home, Maples said, "Yes."
Republican Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania suggested the munitions were in fact the weapons of mass destruction that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein lied about, leading the United States to war.
"For those who claim that these weapons are not the weapons of mass destruction that the United States went to war over, I would refer them to 17 United Nations Security Council resolutions that Saddam Hussein violated," Weldon said. "It didn't say pre-'91 chemical weapons. It didn't say post-'91 chemical weapons. It said chemical weapons."
But Democrats dismissed such arguments and said the weapons were not the "imminent threat" used to justify the war.