Hayden: Syria was close to getting nukes

CIA director: Reactor could have produced plutonium for 2 bombs within a year of becoming operational.

Michael Hayden 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Michael Hayden 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
CIA Director Michael Hayden said Monday the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor destroyed by an IAF air strike in September would have produced enough plutonium for one or two bombs within a year of becoming operational. US intelligence and administration officials publicly disclosed last week their assessment that Syria was building a covert nuclear reactor with North Korean assistance. They said it was modeled on the shuttered North Korean reactor at Yongbyon, which produced a small amount of plutonium, and was within weeks or months of being operational. "In the course of a year after they got full up they would have produced enough plutonium for one or two weapons," Hayden told reporters after a speech at Georgetown University. Neither the United States nor Israel told the International Atomic Energy Agency about the Syrian site until last week, about a year after they obtained what they considered to be decisive intelligence: Dozens of photographs from a hand-held camera that showed both the interior and exterior of the mysterious compound in Syria's eastern desert. From the CIA's perspective, that intelligence was not the United States' to share with the UN nuclear watchdog, Hayden said. "We've made it clear we did not have complete control over the totality of the information because obviously it was the result of a team effort," he said. "One has to respect the origin of the information in terms of how it is used." The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency chastised the United States on Friday for withholding information on the alleged Syrian reactor. One of the IAEA's missions is to try to prevent nuclear proliferation, and it depends on member states for information to carry out that task. A senior administration official told reporters last week that the United States kept the information secret after the Israeli strike because it feared revealing it might provoke Syria to strike back at Israel.