William Tierney, the former United Nations weapons inspector who unveiled the so-called “Saddam Tapes” at a conference in Arlington, Virginia, Saturday, told National Review Online that God directed him to weapons sites in Iraq and that his belief in the importance of one particular site was strengthened when a friend told him that she had a vision of the site in a dream.
In his presentation at the so-called “Intelligence Summit,” Tierney, an Arabic speaker, described how he received the “Saddam Tapes” from federal authorities last year as part of his job as a contract translator. It was supposed to be a routine assignment, but Tierney said he soon realized the tapes had special significance and decided to make them public. Tierney said he believes other tapes, which have not yet been heard, will eventually reveal that Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Tierney also said that he believes Iraq orchestrated the 2001 anthrax attacks, with Saddam Hussein using American scientist Steven Hatfill as a “proxy” to carry out the mission.
Afterward, in a talk with NRO, Tierney addressed comments he made in February 2003 on “Coast to Coast AM,” a radio program devoted to paranormal phenomena. On the program, hosted by George Noory, (who took over from predecessor Art Bell), Tierney discussed a possible nuclear-related facility in Iraq. A description of Tierney’s remarks on the “Coast to Coast AM” website says:
Tierney’s methods of ascertaining this location were rather unconventional. “I would ask God and just get a sense if something was valid or not, and then know if I needed to pursue it,” he said. His assessments through prayer were then confirmed to him by a friend’s clairvoyant dream, where he was able to find the location on a map. “Everything she said lined up. This place meets the criteria,” Tierney said of the power generator plant near the Tigris River that he believes is actually a cover for a secret uranium facility.
Tierney told NRO that he appeared on the program because he wanted to reach a large audience. “I don’t believe a lot of the stuff that goes on on ‘Coast to Coast,’” he said. “It’s a forum to speak to people who are searching for answers, and that’s why I went on.” But as far as what he said about the influence of his religious faith on his work as a weapons inspector, Tierney said he has no regrets: “I don’t take back anything.”
“I am a Christian–I would describe myself as an Acts Christian,” Tierney told NRO. “If you look at the book of Acts for the early church, it’s pretty exciting stuff. I mean, Christianity, you can do your hour-a-week thing in church, or you can skip the spiritual mountaintops. That’s what I’ve been going for for years.”
Tierney said he had originally planned to pursue a career as a classical guitarist when “God sort of grabbed me by the collar and said, ‘I don’t want you in that.’” He joined the military and eventually found himself working as an intelligence analyst.
In the job, Tierney was required to go through hundreds of reports of possible threats each day. “One of those might involve a nuclear attack against the United States,” he said. “If you don’t catch it, it could happen, because you, as the analyst, failed. So I’m sitting there going, ‘Alright, God, I need help. Thank you for showing me which one of these things is important and which one is not.”
Tierney also served as a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq in the 1990s, and he said he remembers thinking about the book of Psalms as a kind of guiding construct for his work. He particularly recalled the 18th Psalm, verse two, which, in the King James version, says, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”
The phrase “high tower” struck him deeply. “It talked about God is my fortress, God’s horn is my salvation and my high tower,” Tierney said. “In that context, it’s not talking about protection. From a high tower, you can see the enemy coming. So God is my intel. And I took another verse [from Proverbs] that said, ‘In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.’ What I did was I sort of tweaked it a little bit–In all thy UNSCOM inspections, He shall direct thy paths to the weapons of mass destruction.” (UNSCOM was the United Nations Special Commission, the agency originally charged with Iraqi weapons inspections.)
Tierney said he applied that inspiration to a particular site, a facility that might have been part of an Iraqi nuclear program. There was, he said, “a report, I don’t want to get into too much of the details right now, but it ended up being a description of an underground uranium enrichment plant. It took me eight months to put the things together, but I came up with a location within a short distance of Tarmiyah where EMIS took place–electromagnetic isotope separation.” Tarmiyah had been a site involved in an earlier Iraqi nuclear program, a program that was quite advanced when it was revealed by defectors after the first Gulf War in 1991.
But the people in charge of searching for WMD didn’t take Tierney seriously. When he brought it up with his superiors, he said, “People basically rolled their eyes, they didn’t follow up on it.” After leaving his position as an inspector, he still had the information, and was still frustrated by his inability to get it out. “I’m in a position of what do I do with this?” Tierney said. “Do I go public? Because then I could get in trouble for revealing classified information….I wanted to get it to UNMOVIC so they could check it out, and I didn’t know what to do.” (UNMOVIC was the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission, the body that took over the work of UNSCOM.)
That’s where his friend’s dream came in. “I got on the phone with a good friend I haven’t talked to in 15 years. And I just told her what was going on, and she cut me off and said, ‘You know, I had a dream about two years ago.’ And then she described a location. She didn’t know what it was, she just knew it was important to somebody. She drew a picture of this, and it was the exact angle of this location, as a power generation station on the Tigris River. It had two inlets and two outlets, exactly in her picture, and she said, ‘There was water flowing into this house, and there was something going on downstairs, and I was standing there and no one knew I was there’–this is in her dream–’and there was a lot of activity going on, but they didn’t know I was there.’ And she had no idea, I didn’t tell her anything. And right as I was trying to decide what to do with this, she gives me this.”
In the end, it all seemed to fit a Biblical pattern. “So the dream–look in the Bible,” Tierney said. “There were dreams.” Tierney gave the information to UNMOVIC, which, he said, did not adequately pursue it.
Tierney’s penchant for applying his religious beliefs to specific intelligence issues was quite controversial in the later stages of his career in government. In 2003, the publication Army Times reported that Tierney’s career as a Chief Warrant Officer ended when “the Defense Intelligence Agency said Tierney, an Arabic-speaking analyst and former U.N. arms inspector, overstepped his bounds when he prayed with an Iraqi Christian defector shortly before the 1998 Desert Fox air strikes against Iraq.” The DIA concluded that Tierney had “demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with routine intelligence procedures.”
Tierney argued that he was being discriminated against because of his religious beliefs, and his congressman, Rep. Charles Canady of Florida, tried to have him reinstated. But in the end, Tierney left the military. Later, in 2002, he worked as a civilian interrogator at the American detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but Army Times reported that “after two months at Guantanamo, Tierney was dismissed when DIA officials once against felt he wasn’t following established procedures.”
Tierney wasn’t the only controversial figure at the “Intelligence Summit.” The president of the organization that staged the conference, former federal prosecutor John Loftus, has in the past drawn attention for writing that the Bush family won its wealth by supporting the Nazi regime in the 1930s. Loftus has also written about his theory linking the Enron scandal to the September 11 terrorist attacks, claiming that Vice President Dick Cheney forbade American intelligence from investigating ties between Enron, the Taliban, and al Qaeda in the months leading up to the attacks. “The Enron cover-up confirms that 9/11 was not an intelligence failure or a law enforcement failure (at least not entirely),” Loftus wrote. “Instead, it was a foreign policy failure of the highest order. If Congress ever combines its Enron investigation with 9/11, Cheney’s whole house of cards will collapse.”
Finally, there are questions surrounding the chief financial supporter of the “Intelligence Summit.” Last week, the New York Sun reported that two former CIA directors, James Woolsey and John Deutch, had been scheduled to take part in the Summit, but pulled out at the last minute because of concerns over “new information they received regarding one of the Summit’s biggest donors, Michael Cherney, an Israeli citizen who has been denied a visa to enter America because of his alleged ties to the Russian mafia.” Cherney’s organization, the Michael Cherney Foundation, is listed as the Summit’s only “Platinum Sponsor,” meaning Cherney contributed at least $100,000 to the event.
According to published reports, investigators for the House Intelligence Committee, working with government intelligence experts, have verified the Saddam Tapes as authentic. So in coming weeks, the controversy over them will be not about their authenticity but about how best to interpret them. And in that, the people associated with the Intelligence Summit start with a significant credibility disadvantage.
EDITOR’S NOTE: William Tierney responded to this article on Monday. His letter and Byron York’s response are here.
–Byron York, NR’s White House correspondent, is the author of The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President–and Why They’ll Try Even Harder Next Time.