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US 'Knew About Rebel Chemical Weapons, Acted Selectively'

Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist reveals proof that US administration knew both sides had weapons; officials deny claims.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 12/10/2013, 2:15 PM

U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama
Flash 90

A US investigative journalist has charged President Barack Obama with knowing that a Syrian rebel group had the capability to produce chemical weapons - but ignoring it and placing blame on Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime instead, according to the Business Standard

Veteran journalist Seymour Hersh published a scathing article in the London Review of Books this week accusing the President of "deliberate manipulation of intelligence" in the chemical weapons case to justify intervention in the conflict. 

The United Nations investigative teams examined the attack site and wrote a report following the news, eventually confirming that sarin gas had been used but not blaming either side for the attack. 

While Hersh states that Assad's forces are still responsible for the August 21 chemical attack, which left at least 1,400 dead outside of Damascus, he maintains that the US government purposely obfuscated the facts for its own reasons.  

"[Obama] had claimed to have an iron-clad case but suddenly agreed to take the issue to Congress, and later to accept Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical weapons," writes Hersh, toward the end of the article. "It appears possible that at some point he was directly confronted with contradictory information: evidence strong enough to persuade him to cancel his attack plan, and take the criticism sure to come from Republicans."

According to Buzzfeed, Hersh's reports are based on a secret cable sent to a senior official at the Defense Intelligence Agency in July, allegedly stating along with later documents that the Al Nusra Front had the ability to produce sarin gas. 

Hersh's claim are detailed, describing how the knowledge moved up the entire chain of command in the US government, how the US allegedly conducted studies determining the best way to clear both sides of their chemical weapons stash, and declared that a full-blown initiative into Syria would be too costly - both financially and for the war-weary US public. 

He cites a number of top military and government officials, confidential documents, and suspicious excerpts from Obama's speech in August regarding the attack. 

Hersh also notes that the government has preyed on public ignorance on the nature of Sarin. "You don't store sarin - you store the chemicals to make Sarin," he stated, in an interview with Democracy Now. "It's far too volatile to store." 

He claims that a warning system is in place in Syria - a covert surveillance network - which allows the US to monitor chemical weapons production, and that Israel is also privy to that information. 

Administration officials denied the charges and said there was no evidence to support Hersh's claims.

"The suggestion that there was an effort to suppress intelligence is simply false," said Shawn Turner, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

According to the Huffington Post, Hersh originally sent the article to The Washington Post, but was rejected for "not being up to standards." Hersh is a Pultizer-Prize winning journalist who exposed the 1969 My Lai Massacre and cover-up, as well as the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Gharib in 2004. 

The report surfaces as the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) begins preparations to destroy most of Assad's chemical weapons stash later this month. 

For an in-depth interview with Hersh, see below.