FOX News national security correspondent Bret Baier falsely claimed that the Iraq Survey Group's (ISG) report on the search for illicit weapons (WMDs) in Iraq articulated "suspicions that many weapons made their way into Syria before the war began." In fact, while Bush administration officials have hinted that they suspect Iraq smuggled banned weapons into Syria, the ISG's final report, commonly known as the Duelfer report, included no evidence to support this conjecture.
According to an October 6, 2004, Washington Post article:
The Bush administration has held out the possibility that illicit weapons and their components were secreted by [former Iraqi dictator Saddam] Hussein across the border into Syria. This may still be true, but [Charles] Duelfer's team did not find any proof to support this notion, the [U.S.] official [briefed on the report prior to its release to the public] said. "They have no evidence of this," the official said. "It's an unresolved issue." Syria denies it aided the hiding of illicit materials.
On the January 12 edition of FOX News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Baier reported:
Officials are also confirming that Charles Duelfer, the man who headed up the search for weapons of mass destruction, is back in the U.S. They say he will be adding some additional information to the interim report.
But basically, the September report will be the final conclusion, and that is that no stockpiles were found; Saddam had the ability to start up some of these programs quickly; and that there are still suspicions that many weapons made their way into Syria before the war began.
Baier's false claim echoes conservative pundits' frequent and equally baseless speculations. New York Times columnist William Safire wrote on December 22, 2004: "When and if we discover hidden supplies of germ weapons in Iraq or Syria, and as future confessions reveal the extent of connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam, the legion of war critics will forthrightly admit their certitude was misplaced."
FOX News host Sean Hannity has repeatedly asserted that Iraqi officials smuggled weapons to Syria. For example, on the November 21, 2004, edition of Hannity & Colmes, he and Washington Times national security reporter Bill Gertz agreed this was a "likely scenario":
HANNITY: I have never bought into this belief that we didn't find the WMDs, that they never existed, that we were wrong, that the president misled, that Congress misled. Because we know he had them. We know he was working on them. We spoke to the people. Isn't the more likely scenario, in this eight-month arduous build-up to the war, Saddam saw the handwriting on the wall, moved those weapons, probably to some place like Syria or thereabouts? Isn't that the more likely scenario?
GERTZ: Yes, yes. And there is intelligence to that effect, and they are working to try and confirm that.